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RV Update / Upgrade Thread

I had mentioned on one of my threads (Purchasing 46.5 Acres Near Kingman, AZ) that I had the inverter/charger fail on the RV while camping. Its a Prosine 2.0 made by Xantrex and lasted about 15 years so I can't complain. I purchased a new unit from Xantrex and its being shipped. Most of the camping I do is dry or boondocking. RV has 600 watt solar system along with the inverter so it does very well for extended stays off grid. I pulled the old unit out and don't like the way the batteries are wired, so I think that's going to be a redo and relocation of half of them. RV is a 35' Class A that is a very well maintained 18 years old.
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The batteries for the system are 4 GS2 group size or golf cart batteries. I am upgrading to AGM's because they last twice as long, charge faster, discharge slower and have no maintenance. They are still heavy mothers though, about 65 pounds each. The current set up which was not installed by me has the inverter/charger in the storage compartment directly in front of the entry door, where most of the electronics are located. Good protected spot. There are two batteries in the entry step well, along with the chassis battery. There are two more in the storage compartment directly behind the step well. What I don't like about that is all the weight of the batteries is all in one spot, on one side. I also don't like how it was wired. I am going to relocate the batteries in the storage compartment to the driver side storage compartment directly across from the step well. It will even out the weight distribution, and free up valuable storage real estate since that is one of the few compartments you can easily access with the slides out. That part should be relatively simple; get a new battery box that is in line instead of side by side, mount it and install the batteries.

The wiring should be simple as well. The current set up has one in line 300 amp fuse that is located in the step well. The batteries in the step well connect to that fuse lug with a very short length of 4/0 welding wire, all good. The batteries in the storage compartment connect to that same lug with about a 4-5' length of same type/gauge wire that runs along with the main wiring harness for the coach. Not so good as there is nothing to protect that section of wire from shorting. From the 300 amp fuse is another 5-6' length of same type/gauge wire that goes to the inverter. Also not so good as there is nothing to protect that section of wire from shorting and frying the inverter. To make it much safer, there should be two more 300 amp in line fuses, one at the other set of batteries and one just before the inverter. The wiring from both battery locations should meet at that fuse with a short length of wire to the inverter. The relocated batteries will have the wiring inside the storage area, since its a full width pass through type compartment. I can use the existing wiring from the step well battery location that already goes to the inverter location for that half.

I found everything on eBay, can't believe how much wire has gone up in the past few months. $4 a foot for 4/0.
 



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I did some pre-solar redo work today, not much but more of exploration than anything else. Wanted to see how hard it was going to be to fish the new controller to batteries wires. I'm replacing the original wire, which I figured out is 14 or 16 gauge outdoor low voltage light wiring. Not the best choice for solar wiring. New wiring is 10/2 marine grade tinned copper. The manufactures inattention to detail made it easy to get the new wiring through the floor of the electrical panel cabinet. Its a big hole with a bunch of wires, conduit, and wire loom filled in with spray insulation. I used but connectors to connect the new wire to the old wire, then wrapped it in electrical tape. I found a access panel in the basement storage where I could reach at full extension and just feel the wiring. I pulled the loom off the closest wires, and it felt like outdoor low voltage light wiring, smooth on one side, grooved on the other. Pulled steadily and it came out, bringing the new wire with it. A very good start.
 



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Today I decided to figure out where the OEM solar controller to batteries wires went. I started following the wire loom through the basement storage and figured out they go up the driver side, then cross straight over to right behind the entry door. Original batteries were all located within the entry steps. I pulled the new wiring through to where it takes a 90 degree turn across the ceiling of the storage, then pulled it out of the loom. It's within a few feet of the second battery bank that I relocated on the passenger side basement storage to even out the weight. I think I have cut the length of the wire in half, so it's about 15' long now. That and being 10-gauge vs 14 or 16, it should be able to push a lot more amps to the batteries this way. I cut the ends off the battery side of the old wire and yanked it all out, along with the loom. Should be an easy job to wire the rest, tedious, but easy. Spent the rest of the day helping daughter's boyfriend replace the brake pads on his 328i.

Access below the electronical cabinet. Wire before I unsnagged and then it easily pulled through the existing loom.
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Right before it takes a 90 degree turn to the passenger side. The loom came apart when I pulled it out, should have just left it in place. Now I'll need to move all the stuff out of there to clean it up as there are other wires going through there.
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Finished up the solar controller to battery wiring today. 30 amp auto reset breakers on each end. RV has a lot of batteries and if the wire shorts it could really ruin my day. The OEM wire didn't have anything protecting it from melting.

Realized the Amazon vendor shorted me almost 10' of wire when I pulled it all through. Didn't take the time to measure it beforehand.

Routing
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Need to pull that spare tire out of there. It's unused, but about 15 years old, and I went to a different size when I replaced the tires.

Battery side
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Controller side
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The controller is in this panel. 110 volt shore/generator breaker panels and wiring are in a panel below this one.
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Replacement solar panel should be here Wednesday. I think I'll pull the RV out and remove all the old panels and wiring, and run the new wiring through the roof on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I can mount the new panels Thursday.

Also need to install the new front shocks @Stic-o got for me.

I was going to also replace the slide out toppers, but I think they will last another trip or two. Looking a little ragged on the edges.
 






After wiring it up all nice and pretty, I decided I wanted manual breakers in the cabinet so I can shut it off quickly. Ordered new 30 amp breakers.
 






Yesterday was a beautiful day outside. I ended up not pulling the RV out from under the canopy to remove the old solar panels and wiring because I think this job is going to take more than one day. It's already raining today and is supposed to rain tomorrow. I'm really not looking forward to removing the old flexible panels as I installed them using Eternabond RV tape, and lots of it. I was concerned it would not hold so I overdid it, now I have to deal with removing it. It's considered by the manufacture as a permanent tape. I am planning on cutting the old panels out and leaving the single sided tape on the roof itself alone. Where I used double sided tape to hold the air gap material, I will use a scraper, razor blade scraper, and heat gun to remove what I can off the fiberglass one piece roof. Watching some videos and doing online research, it looks like gasoline, turpentine or acetone with Scotchbrite pads and rags takes the residue off. I'll try a gallon of adhesive remover from Home Depot first. Real good old turpentine is banned in California, just like everything else that works. Luckily, it's a RV roof so no big deal to have some sticky tape remnants up there if they need to stay so I don't damage the roof. The long-term plan, since I do plan on keeping this coach for many more years, is to apply some type of RV roof coating. The floor plan, length and drivetrain of this coach is just about perfect for me (Dolphin 5355). When I get it registered in Arizona, I can get the PCM and TCM tuned to add 60HP and 80 Ft pounds of torque, which will take care of its only real shortcoming, which is going up long steep grades.

I did replace the front shocks on the RV. It's fairly easy but everything is supersized. I used the leveling jacks to raise the front up as far as they go, then turned the wheel to the left so I can squeeze into the passenger side fender well area behind the tire. Shocks are behind the axle. Cordless impact fits top and bottom so I can just blast the bolts off and on. Repeat for driver side but turn wheel to the right. Always end up fixing other things when working on the RV and this was no exception. Noticed the hydraulic lines for the front leveling jacks was loosely set on top of the shock mounts. Sheathing was worn on the driver side from rubbing. Couple of zip ties and it was snugged up. It's not the work, it's getting in and out of there that is the hard part.

Checked the wheel bearings on the Explorer because I felt a slight vibration at certain speeds and wanted to rule that out (they are fine). It's probably a tire balance or tread wear issue, but not enough to even bother trying to rectify. Also did a little work on the boat trailer as I somehow lost one of the bearing buddy outer hub seals while moving it around before the last trip.

The replacement panel is supposed to show up today. Hopefully it will be intact. I tested the one good panel I have, but only for voltage. I figured it would be a good sign it's a good panel. Put it out in the sun, waited a few minutes and it showed 23.8 volts. Max is 24 so I guess it's working well. The charge controller reduces or ups the voltage, max is 14.6 for the type of batteries I'm using (AGM).
 

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I switched out the auto reset breaker to the manual reset unit. Had to remove the sheathing and get creative to have the wire move easier so it's not putting pressure on the ends when opening or closing the cabinet. With the sheathing it was too rigid. I was going to wire the panel breaker to the controller, but decided to wait and make that the last thing I do.

Need to wait for the weather to cooperate for the rest of the job.
 






I got the panels off and some of the Eternabond mess. That stuff is very sticky, but seems to scrape off with moderate effort. If I use my heat gun I think most of it will scrape off without too much trouble. The heat from the panels discolored the fiberglass roof, but it doesn't seem to be damaged beyond that. Two of the five panels electrical box pulled off when I was removing them, so they were shot.

I tested the second new panel by temporarily hooking it up to the controller. 23.8 volts in direct sun, 22 in almost a 90 degree angle. They should work fine.

I realized the mounting kit I bought with the panels has self-tapping into metal screws. I might need into wood, but what I think I will really need from past experience is rubber nutserts/expansion nuts. That is a common method of securing stuff to a RV roof.

Good time to take a break, off to Marshall's Hardware.

Before
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After through a upstairs window
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After I clean up the mess, I'll use one of the panel shipping boxes for templates to figure out placement of the new panels.
 






Cleaned up all I was going to do. Eternabond is sticky tape from hell when you try to remove it. It strings out my arms length. I will be picking it off my leg hairs for weeks. I did figure out how to get most of the residue off. I used a metal putty knife, working it under and wiggling it along, then flip it up at the end. After I scraped off all I could get, I used some acetone and industrial strength adhesive remover. It got most of it off. I left the single sided tape in place that was intact.

I got the panels up, which was an adventure in itself as they are 26 pounds each. I left them in the box and wrapped it in a rope, then pulled them onto the roof. Got them situated where I can easily get around them, there is room to work, and they are in the best overall spots for the sun. Drilled pilot holes for the well nuts, left in wood screws for now. It got a little frustrating when I figured out the mounts that came with the panels don't have washers wide enough to cover the holes in the panels. I had to keep going up and down the RV ladder, and decided that was enough for the day. Should be able to finish this up tomorrow afternoon.

I'm going to use Dicor self leveling lap sealant on the mounts and the entry point for the wiring. If it ever needs to be removed, you can just cut it out with a sharp scraper.

As cleaned up as it's going to get.
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Panels in place.
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I think I got this project finished. Panels installed with well nuts, sealed with Dicor, wiring ran and done, it's charging at 13.6 volts on a cloudy day. Never ran that high with the old panels. Think I'll call it good.

Panels installed
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New wiring entry cover. Entry points towards the rear of the coach.
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Panel terminals makes all the wiring exactly the same length for both panels. The terminals are supposed to be waterproof, and it was the spot the wires wanted to sit, so I didn't try to hide them. Should make it easier to work on if needed.
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Inside wiring. Manual reset breakers so I can shut off the power if needed, auto reset on the battery side of the wires.
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Voltage!!
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The panel to controller wiring is about 8 feet long, controller to battery is about 14 feet. I shortened the wire, and used heavier wire so it should help the DC flow.
 












Today I looked at other PV controllers to see if there was any I liked that would have a display. My Renogy Wanderer works fine, but sometimes I would like to see what the panels and controller are doing. I have a small space for the controller since its in that panel door. The max width is 6", height about 5". Renogy's Adventurer controller, which has a display, is flush mounted, and is priced nicely at $59 shipped, is 1/2" too wide. They make a Bluetooth adaptor for their products that should be compatible with my Wanderer for $39, but I have enough Bluetooth stuff I never take advantage of already. I will think about this for a while, maybe find a reasonably priced controller that will fit in the space, maybe get the Bluetooth adaptor.
 






Camping on the Arizona property for about a month. The solar is working very well. It's already fully charged and in float at 8:30AM. Panels survived the drive out, so they are secured. I checked them at my usual overnight spot at KOFA.

The new front shocks took away all the bounce. Reduced the pressure in the air bags and it rides very smooth, while still keeping the sway away. I did notice a bit of wander that changed which side it wanted to pull based upon air bag pressure. I think the alignment toe was knocked out of whack when I hit a pot hole so big I thought we might have gotten airborne on I40 last year. This is the first trip without a significant side wind, which made it hard to tell if there were any issues. I'm going to do a tape measure alignment while I'm here. See if anything out of whack.
 






RV awning is very helpful when its warm as it shades the passenger side of the coach until about 1 PM the way I have it parked. It also shades the back side of the fridge, which helps it run cooler. I intentionally parked it that way because it keeps the sun off the windshield, which heats up the interior.

Awning has a rod in the "foot" of the poles. The rod clips into the bottom mount on the side of the RV like shown.
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The rod holds the entire pole to the side of the RV, both while stored and when open, unless you opt to stake the pole into the ground.

The foot is all one cast aluminum piece. The rod portion has cracked through in two places. One side of the crack is visible in the above picture. I'll try to source the foot as there are several RV repair/parts stores in Kingman. If I can't locate the part, then my temp repair will need to hold for three weeks.

My temp repair was to JB Weld the rod back in place, then coat the entire rod in more JB Weld. I'll find out tomorrow if it holds after letting it cure overnight.

If that doesn't work, and I'm not that confident it will, I will cut out the rod, and drill a hole through each side of the foot for a small hitch type pin I located in the RV. I can build up the center with tape or wrap it in a strip cut from an aluminum can to build it up so it latches properly. That fix might outlast the OEM cast rod. I can order a new part when I get back. Keep my modified foot for a spare. It will also keep me from having to hit Harbor Freight for a cheapo rivet gun, since my nice one is at home.
 






Upping the 20 amp breaker for the charger/inverter to 30 amps did the trick. I have the rear AC running, the charger is bulk charging at 14.2 volts, the electric water heater, and the fridge, and I vacuumed the floors, all running off the generator. No popped breakers.
 






JB Welded rod came apart when I pushed it into the mount clip. Plan B came into immediate effect. It seems to be working.

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I redid the cooling fans for the fridge. It was all Amazon sourced parts. Instead of the four 2" fans, I went with two 4" fans. The smaller fans dropped the fridge temperature, but were noisy. I could hear them from inside the coach. These new fans are nearly silent and push a lot of air. The fans are now controlled by a temperature switch that turns the fans on and off at 32 C. So far it's been working very well. I screwed the fans into the door frame of the outside fridge access door as they just fit under the coils. I think total I'm in it for under $20.00.

Controller
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Fans
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I need to fuse and remount the controller since its zip tied to wires, and make it look pretty.
 






My RV had a spare tire (no wheel) in the basement storage for 20 years. Never got used. My Dad bought it because the Workhorse has an odd size tire only made by Michelin, 235/80/22.5. Michelin has always been clever that way, talking manufacturers into using odd size tires. When I last bought new tires, I changed to a more common size, 245/75/22.5. They are almost identical, and about $300 less per tire (x6). It actually feels more stable on the highway now.

The spare was squeezed into the front of the basement pass through storage. It was a convenient spot. The Xantrex inverter/charger is at the very front of the pass through, pulls air through its cooling fans from the basement storage. The tire gave it a buffer from the banquet tables I have up there. I decided to get rid of the spare, because now I easily can buy one nearly anywhere from a roadside tire service company, and no one would touch a 20 year old new tire in any case.

Removing the tire left me with an issue. I needed to keep anything from bouncing off the inverter. I looked around my scrap pile, used some angle off a bed frame (love bed frames, snag them whenever I can for the metal), an old basketball hoop backboard frame, and some extruded steel.
Made this.
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The bottom hoop rests against the metal storage floor so if it takes a hit it can't fold over and rip the screws out.
Here it is mounted. For those of you who know me, 11" of space is a very tight fit. I could just stretch out enough to get that last self tapper #12 screw in there, about 28" from the opening. It leaves a few feet of open space all the way across for the inverter to pull air from. The tables are now almost all the way clear of the part of the basement storage I use the most, just enough that I can pull them back out. The pictures are from the driver side storage doors, which only open half way when the living room slide is out. I was going to go up to the ceiling, but didn't have enough extruded steel, it would be weaker, and it's unnecessary. I was going to box in the inverter, but I wouldn't be able to squeeze that far up there to secure it, and can't really put anything up there anyway. Too hard to get to, and the living room slide mechanism is there. Besides, I carry enough crap already. Although, it would be a great spot for an on board air compressor and tank, but the Explorer already has them.
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The only real problem I see with it, is it reinforced my life long obsession with not throwing anything away that might someday be useful.
 






RV Tires ain't cheap either. I just replaced all 6 before we drove to Florida and back. Sure glad I did. Our spare lives underneath like a pick up. Never thought of abandoning it though 🤔
 






Most Class A's don't come with a spare. You call a mobile big rig tire guy. The only flat I ever had with a RV in 40 years was due to a flexible valve stem extension. If you have those, get rid of them. Take it to a big rig shop and have curved solid stems installed.
 



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Yeah I started thinking on our trip.... does thing even come with a jack? I leave my CAT off road floor jack in there now. It's only 3 ton, but could get me out of a jam. I'd rather change out a 37" tire then one off the motorhome. 😬
 






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