As promised in our Journal entry for 19th Sept 2012 (click this to see the entry) here is some detail of the actual fixes/upgrades accomplished at the GXV factory.
Also as noted in our journal entry we were very happy with the work done, and spirit displayed, by all GXV folks and left their place feeling confident of the quality of support they will give during our planned travels. We also left feeling certain that lessons learned from our vehicle and experience will find their way into future builds.
The initial build of our camper did not provide external vents for the refrigerator, the electrical cabinet, the batteries, the camper heating radiator, or the hot water storage tank. Our thinking was that this would provide cleaner lines, less dust penetration and less water penetration.
The other thing this decision provided (not surprisingly) was a hotter camper interior particularly in the cabinet above the refrigerator and the seat above the electrical cabinet.
After some experience with the camper, admittedly in warm weather, this seems like a poor trade-off; so one of the jobs at this visit to GXV was more venting. We decided to vent the refrigerator and electrical cabinet as we consider the heat generated by these devices waste. On the other hand the hot water storage tank and heater radiator remain un-vented, but with a plan for more insulation in the future, as their function requires them to store heat.
The initial design of the microwave cabinet above the kitchen sink had a single heat vent above the oven. This style of cabinet has proven adequate in all our previous motorhomes and so seemed it should be adequate in this one. However as readers of our journal will know this particular microwave demonstrated a propensity to overheat right from the start and eventually died.
It is a tribute to Frigidaire that they replaced the oven under warranty without any quibble or question (or maybe this model is known to be a problem).
We could not be entirely sure of the cause of the failure but excessive heat was a prime suspect. One of the things that has changed in this motorhome compared to those we previously owned is our diet and the extent to which we bake food. The microwave seemed to be entirely happy when operating as a microwave, it was when operating in convection mode that it heated up and it was in convection mode when it died.
Hence one of the jobs for this GXV visit was more ventilation in the microwave cabinet. Note that we chose to have the new microwave vents empty into the camper. We only use the microwave in convection mode 2-3 times a week for about 1 hour at a time and hence could not justify cutting more holes in the camper body for such an infrequent heat source.
As can be seen in the photos below we put a vent and 92mm exhaust fan high on the left side wall (this is where the oven appears to get hottest), inlet vents low on the right side wall and in the bottom of the cabinet plus opened up the gap between the bottom of the oven and the bottom of the cabinet. The fan is turned on by a manual switch when cooking with convection.
We have already cooked with convection once and the new oven is still alive. The venting worked as expected with a noticeable flow of hot air coming from the exhaust fan vent. However the metal faces of the oven and the cabinet walls still got very very hot; we will probably install yet another fan vent.
Following the above replacement of the Frigidaire microwave, and installation of more venting we still experienced extreme heating of the oven when used in convection mode. Hence after some extensive research we (and GXV) concluded that the best course of action was to replace the Frigidaire device with a Sharp R820JS. Since that replacement we have had no problems with the microwave getting excessively hot.
In defense of the Frigidaire it was never intended to be housed in a cabinet; the manual clearly states that it is a counter top model.
So far we have been lucky enough not to have to change a tire and hence have not used the spare tire lift (crane) in a real life situation. However we did practice with it at home when we first got the vehicle. That experiment showed that while the crane and winch in its original form could successfully lower and raise the spare it struggled somewhat raising the 400+ lb tire. I diagnosed the issue as cable drag and decided I would like to change the design to eliminate that cable drag.
The modified design the GXV and I came up with was to move the winch mounting point to the topside of the crane arm thereby eliminating 2 of the cable drag points. In its new position the winch cable has only one 90° bend over a pulley before hooking the load.
The new position of the winch is more exposed to weather and overhead hazards than in the original design. To offset this, and to provide more security for the winch, the winch is now easily demountable and stores inside the luggage compartment except when in use.
Cabinet doors and drawers that open unexpectedly when driving on rough roads or around sharp corners have been an issue to varying degrees with all the motorhomes we have owned and this one is no exception. Generally there are two sets of issues.
The first is the capacity of the door/drawer locks to hold that door/drawer closed.
The second is the consequences of a door/drawer unexpectedly opening whether due to lock failure of (more likely) due to forgetting to close the lock.
With the style of cabinet locks used by GXV the first type of issue can be solved by adjusting the lock jamb. We needed to do this as the cabinets settled in and adjusted to the loads we carry in the drawers.
It was the second type of issue that needed some work. We use four of the drawers in the camper to carry "heavy stuff" such as camera gear, computer gear, books, and cooking pots. When these drawers open unexpectedly (for whatever reason) the weight causes the drawer to open violently and crash against the stops on the drawer slides. The original slides did not withstand this abuse and allowed the drawers to drop onto the floor.
The fix was to replace the original bottom mounted slides with a heavier duty side mounted model which unfortunately necessitated some remodeling of those 4 drawers.
This was the really big job for this visit to GXV, we planned to install an additional (a third) fuel tank with a capacity of 40+ gallons bringing the total fuel load of the vehicle up to 200 gallons and enough to meet my goal of 1500 miles range between fuel stops.
The tank is a simple box Hhh" x Www" x Lll" made of stainless steel. Ports on the front left of the tank provide for a transfer pump that empties into the truck main tank and a center removable flange carries the gauge sensor and filler neck.
Initial measurements and photos exchanged by email suggested that the tank would be positioned between the frame rails just forward of the rear axle. But once we arrived at GXV, more measurements, further discussion, and some experiments in clearance between the tank position and the rear driveshaft, changed the plan and the new tank was positioned immediately behind the rear axle.
Note that our initial efforts to flex the rear suspension with a fork-lift were defeated by the weight of the vehicle. Thus we resorted to a "ramp over" style test. This test does a good job of demonstrating the effect of the GXV three point mounting system.
The tank is mounted in a cradle (which boxes the tank) hanging from the frame rails with the top of the tank positioned a few inches below the top of the frame rails. This positioning is required to prevent interference between the rear camper mount and the filler neck and to give adequate fall between the filler spout and tank. In this position the bottom of the tank sits about 1" lower than (and forward of) the rear storage boxes. This position does not compromise the departure angle of the vehicle but does reduce the height of a "step" the vehicle could drop over.
Installation was a lengthy process. The culprits being the need to drill holes through the double thickness frame rails (a result of the wheel base and frame stretch) and poor access to the frame rails as a result of the camper box sitting on the frame.
The camper electrical system comprises
3 Lifeline 8DL AGM batteries that provide a total of 765 AH of capacity,
an Outback Inverter/Charger
two 180watt solar panels
an Outback Solar Charge Controller
an Outback Mate2 central display and master controller for all Outback devices
a battery isolator between the truck and house batteries to allow the alternator to charge the house batteries
a MasterVolt ChargeMaster 35A (multi-voltage) world charger.
This is an expensive battery pack with enormous capacity and very sophisticated charging electronics compared to our previous RVs. I am learning (through reading mostly boating websites) that to protect the batteries against early failure some care is needed in the management of the battery pack discharge/recharge cycle. In particular it seems that repeated cycles of discharge and only partial recharge will substantially shorten the life of the batteries.
My initial efforts to assess and manage the discharge/recharge cycle were hampered by lack of data from the charging components. For example I needed a reliable way of assessing the batteries State Of Charge (SOC) and discovered that to do this accurately I needed to measure Amps flowing into the batteries from ALL charging sources.
Enter the Outback device called a FLEXNet-DC - this device is designed precisely for the purpose of assessing SOC and for managing the charging process. It installs easily, and displays its additional information on the existing Outback Mate2 display panel.
GXV installed a FLEX-net for me. It was a relatively simple process. One shunt, the FLEX-net device itself, and a cable to plug the FLEX-net into the Outback communication hub.
I will document what I learn using the FLEXNet in a future article dedicated to the camper electrical system.