I started up the van and heard a squealing. It sounded like the belt slipping, so I thought I would let it idle for a bit to see if it would clear up. I gave it a little throttle, not much, but just enough to change the RPMs to see if it got better or worse. I noticed the volt meter was not reading any voltage about the same time I noticed a bit of smoke from under the hood. Just and as my hand was en-route to the ignition key to shut it off, “Bam”. A loud noise followed by what sounded like chunks of dirt being thrown around the engine compartment.
I assumed the belt broke, or worse, something else came apart. When I opened the hood it was obvious that I was right. The belt was shredded and small parts of it were thrown about. I started rotating the various pulleys, wheels, and parts to see if everything else was ok. When I went to turn the alternator, which I suspect was the problem based on the voltage reading, it was locked up tight. The pulley wheel also had burnt bits of serpentine belt in the grooves. No question what needed to be done.
I went inside and ordered a new alternator and serpentine belt, then to the garage to assemble the tools I’ll need. I then cleaned all the other pulleys removing the burned belt rubber from the groves. That was probably the longest of the task. The alternator and belt arrived the next day (thank you Amazon) and I had it swapped out in about an hour.
Since the serpentine belt runs just about everything off the motor, I figured having a spare is prudent. It’s so easy to replace and anyone can do it with one socket wrench and 5 minutes, it would be nuts not to have one. So I took the spare, added the belt routing diagram to the package, and put on in the Roadtreks tool box.
For my upcoming extended trip out west, I plan on boondocking in some fantastic spots with gorgeous views and wide open country. However, that leaves me smack in the middle of nowhere. No matter how high I hold my cell phone and recite “Can you hear me now”, there will be no response. I’m fine with that. Cut the cord for a while and just enjoy being unconnected.
However, in an emergency I’d be alone. Literally all alone. No lifeline. No one to call for assistance. No help on the way.
I do have an amateur radio license, and those radios can talk around the world under the right conditions. But they are usually stationary stations due to the size and type of antennas required.
While talking around the world would be nice, I really just need a range of a hundred miles or so. VHF radios on the 2 meter band work well when there are repeaters within 30-50 miles. Out west the repeaters are spread thin in the boondocks. They will be useful when present, and I have a VHF/UHF radio installed to call for help on those repeaters if needed.
The above shows the radios for 2m/70cm/10m and CB bands. These are fed through two antennas mounted at the rear of the van, one for 10m and 11m, and the other for both 144mhz and 440mhz. These radios cover communications up to a 50 miles radius.
For day hiking, I will setup the VHF/UHF radios in the van on Cross-Band repeat. This allows my portable hand held radio with a limited 5-6 miles range to communicate with the radio in the van, which will then re-transmit my signal using higher power and better antenna and on a longer range frequency. Any responses received and will be transmitted back to my portable. This effectively gives me the same long distance range as the higher power radio in the van as long as I am within 5-6 miles of the van. The solar panels and battery bank in in the van has the capacity to power the radios indefinitely when sunny, or a solid week in the dark. It’s a good backup emergency communications plan.
The recent update is a Yaesu FT-450D (abov) that will cover the high frequency bands for longer distance communications. Using this radio I can reach out easily for hundreds of miles, across multiple states, or across the country. Even with a less efficient portable antenna, I should be able to communicate in a two hundred mile radius from my location. The portable antenna could quickly be deployed when needed, and would be packed and stored to be used if needed for long range communications.
Along with the handheld radio and spare batteries, I’ll also have my pack filled with the essentials. I’m looking forward to exploring, hiking, and mountain biking out west. Its been a long time since I’ve been out of the wooded Northeast and into something more flat and desert like of the west.
I checked the mileage on the van for the tire technician. “You’re not going to like this” I said. He looked at me quizzically. “66666” I added. We joked about driving it around the block a few times to add a couple miles and lower the danger and risk for both of us. In the end, we just installed new tires, and 4,000 miles later everything is still good.
I went with a full set of Michelin LTX Defender M/S tires. A bit more pricey than all the others, but a rock solid reputation. They ride well, are fairly quiet, and seem to grip well in rain and mud. If they give the expected mileage, I’d give them a 9 out of 10.
I modified the front table in the van to be more useful, and will be doing the same in the rear. The front table originally folded out from behind the drivers seat, which worked ok but was very limited.
The original table was left in place, and I installed a second swivel table available from Lagun. This allowed for many different configurations, and was also height adjustable. Its probably the best livability upgrade I’ve done on the van. Having both tables adds so much flexibility, as well as more counter/table space when needed. Both tables can be folded up and out of the way for a clear seating space.
[UPDATE 3/2017]The table worked out so nicely that I rarely use the rear dinette table setup anymore, and configured the rear as a full time queen bed. I’m making a custom wood table to replace the white Formica table shown, but it will have a very similar layout. Look for a new post on the custom table in the near future.
Here are some images to give you some ideas on the versatility of the layouts.
Since the table can swivel to be used from any of the front seats, it allows me to sit in whichever seat has the best view out the windows and still have a table, while the other seats serve as a foot rest. So much versatility in the seating arrangement for one or two people, that I’m glad Roadtrek didn’t try to fit in a standard small dinette.
I’m not fond of the flip up extensions because of their odd shape. When building a custom tabletop for this area I will build the top with less rounded corners on both he table and extensions.
Since many have asked, here are some details on the van;
Road trek 190 Popular, Class B RV, built on a Dodge Ram 3500 Van chassis. Fully self contained w/40gals fresh water storage, 6gal hot water, 12gal black tank, and 26gal gray tank. 30lbs propane on board for cooking, hot water, and heat. Bathroom and stand up isle shower. Two burner gas stove, 3 way refrigerator/freezer, and microwave for cooking. Air conditioning and furnace for cooling and heat. Dual batteries providing 185Ahr, with a 600W inverter for 120V current from the house batteries. 2800 Watt Onan gasoline generator providing 120V AC power and draws its fuel from the RV gas tank. It could literally run for weeks on a full tank of gas. Class II trailer hitch and a 5000lb towing capacity. Dodge 318 5.2L V8, bullet proof reputation, tons of power for tackling the hills.
Yes, they pack a lot in very little space. It is a full featured RV carefully and elegantly packed into a very small package. The considerations in its design to be functional, comfortable, and not waste any usable space show. For systems that are used a very short amount of time in a day, they are given the least amount of space. For things that will be used for long periods, they have priority on space. They have designed the van to have standing room for anyone 6’ or less by lowering the floor and raising the ceiling.
Based on those design goals, for example, the bed being used long hours each day can be made into a king size, short queen size, or two full size beds. The bathroom, only used a few minutes each day, is tucked away in a side closet. The shower also used minimally each day, utilizes a isle shower setup (clever and very functional). The dinette, side seating, and rear couch areas are comfortable with good padding in the cushions and ample space. Counter space is short on supply, but there are three slide out tables that provide additional counter space on demand, and tuck way when not needed. These types of considerations are evident throughout the van.
The on-board systems are enough to camp anywhere and be fully self contained for a week for one person, or about 5 days for two. We can extend another day or two if we are careful. If we dump the gray and black tanks once a week, and take on some water, we can go for very long periods of time without issue. Solar will be added in the very near future making the van self sufficient for power requiring the generator only for the air conditioning or microwave use.
For more serious editing, I installed a second monitor to be used in a dual monitor editing setup. It is being fed by a 4TB Raid system with a duplicate of the original media back in the edit suite. Its good enough for most work other than critical color correction and grading, which is done back in the edit suite. The monitor also doubles as a entertainment device allowing DVD or downloaded content, as well as picking up OTA digital HDTV. If I need serious power for 4K video, I bring a workstation along.
Being able to work on the road easily is such a huge factor in making it fun to go to work every day. The view is ever changing outside the window, and the chain to the office broken. Refreshing to say the least.