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ChilliConCarnage Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:37 pm

Next, I bought some of the color-matched laminate from GoWesty (http://www.gowesty.com/ec_view_details.php?id=4336&category_id=&category_parent_id=) and covered the vitrifrigo fridge door with it. Additionally, I made a panel to cover the inverter and Car PC under it. It's a shade lighter and brighter than the rest of the laminate in the van, but I guess that's to be expected.



ChilliConCarnage Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:39 pm

Finally, I installed an additional solar charge controller. The old 10amp controller will be used to plug in two small portable panels (a 20W and 5W). The new controller is a 20amp Tracer 2215-RN MPPT model. The MPPT is more efficient than the normal PWM type, and it's hooked up to the permanently mounted 145W roof panel. (http://www.amazon.com/Tracer-Controller-Regulators-Display-Regulator/dp/B008R6TG2W/ref=pd_cp_hi_1). I ordered it with the optional MT5 remote panel monitor to keep an eye on the actual charging stats from the panel. I was going to purchase the Morningstar MPPT controller and remote display, but the Tracer was almost half the price. Only time will tell if it's as good.




ChilliConCarnage Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:40 pm

Almost forgot: I bought new windshield wipers, blades and hardware. The paint was peeling from the original wipers, so these look so much better.



ChilliConCarnage Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:12 pm

Just got these from GoWesty, so they'll be the next thing to install:


MacDude Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:20 am

Any further updates? Love to know if you ever went back and upgraded the audio to match your GTI.

ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:15 pm

MacDude wrote: Any further updates? Love to know if you ever went back and upgraded the audio to match your GTI.

I have not gone back to do anything to the sound system, but I have done a ton more upgrades, so I'll update now....

ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:18 pm

Center console:



Both my wife and I love easily accessible cup holders! And the drawer is obviously a super-convenient place to hold stuff that you need to get at quickly.

There is a thin piece of wood inside bridging the interior that has two holes in it for mounting. I drilled into the floor (above the spare tire), through the carpet and attached two bolts through these holes.

Note that while the console feels very secure the way that I mounted it, the wood where the mounting holes provided seem somewhat thin, and I'm afraid that it could break and the console could become detached in a front-end collision. At some point I'm going to have to figure out a way to strengthen them.

ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:25 pm

Nokian WRC Van tires.

On a camping trip this past summer my wife happened to notice a horrible rip on the the inside of both front tires:





I've been very dilligent in keeping up the tire pressure, so it appeared to me that this was a defect. We had loved the tires up to this point, and wanted to see if Nokian would stand behind them, so we had the local dealer (The Tire Factory) contact them. Unfortunately, I didn't have the original receipt, and Nokian declined any warranty on them.

Coincidentally, when we went to NorthWesty in Renton, there were 3 other vans there with the exact same tires. None of them exhibited the same problem, so I'm assuming we got a bad batch.

We ended up getting two more of the same tires from Van Cafe.

ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:29 pm

While we were waiting for the tires to be shipped from Van Cafe, the fine folks at NorthWesty let us borrow a set of tires and wheels. Kirk and the guys there have always taken good care of us.

So it's no surprise that we bought their Big Brake kit and a their own branded Sunbrella 3-window tent from them:







The tent appears to be of fairly high quality - it's significantly thicker than the original material. The zippers feel like they're good quality. There's also a smart strap system to hold the window material in place when they're open (as you can see in the pix above). While it appears in one of those pictures above that the fit is somewhat loose, it actually looks fine in person. We experienced no flapping in the wind or any other problems since we got it.

Having three windows (as opposed to our original 1 window tent) is very convenient - you can choose which windows to open depending on how much air you want and the direction of the wind.

We really like the contrasting color as well.

I'd read here that some people were concerned that the heavier Sunbrella material might keep more moisture in, but that hasn't been the case for us. We usually keep one of the three windows open at least a little bit for ventilation (particularly important when we use the propane stove or our Little Buddy propane heater), so that may help.

Our old tent had a few stains in it, but was still totally serviceable, so this was a "luxury" upgrade. But I am very glad we did it - it turned out to be functionally superior, and the van looks so much nicer now when the top is popped.

ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:33 pm

Two other upgrades that we did that I can highly recommend:

1) Jack Bombay's pop-top shocks.

2) Headlight relay kit form a vendor here on the Samba (forgot the name...)

I can't believe how much easier it is to work with the pop-top with the shock installed. With the additional weight of the solar panel on top, it was almost a two person job to pop the top. Now it's an easy 1 person affair instead.

ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:43 pm

Here's another luxury item I can whole-heartedly recommend: The Mr. Heater Basecamp Aquacube on-demand hot water heater.

http://www.amazon.com/Basecamp-Heater-Aquacube-Digital-Shower/dp/B007PAP4WM

Before we got the Aquacube, we tried a few different ways to keep fresh during extended camp trips: wet wipes, cold water quickie showers, lots of deodorant! None were ideal.

What a difference the Aquacube makes. Being able to wake up every morning and take a nice hot shower feels so decadent!



It's super easy to use. One green propane cannister lasted more than a dozen showers with propane left after that. We also bought a 7 gallon jug with water filter from REI to hold the water. 7 gallons is good for 1 luxurious shower, 2 short showers, or 3 real quickies.

We also bought a Trekker shelter at Cabelas (http://www.cabelas.com/product/Trekker-Fold-A-Privy/746435.uts?)
. While it worked out wonderfully, and packed up nice and small, I am dubious about it's durability. The zippers seemed fairly cheap, and the material is very thin. I hope it lasts; it works so well as a shower.



Finally, we bought a "Portable Shower Deck" at Camping World. ( http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/item/portable-shower-deck/70098 ) . I could have built something like it for much cheaper, but it also worked well, and it's very light and fairly compact.


ChilliConCarnage Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:50 pm

I found a pretty good deal on Craigslist for some deep cycle batteries (Dynasty UPS12-490MR 140ah), so I picked up a couple; one for the van and one for my solar-powered shed.

I took the FullRiver 60ah battery that was installed in the little cabinet next to the rear bench and replaced it with this new bigger battery (but still have the other FullRiver 60ah under the driver's seat). I found that mounting it on it's end and removing the interior dividing wall left the most useful amount of space next to the battery.

Battery sized: 13.57L x 6.80W x 10.81H





This combination of 140ah + 60ah along with the 140W solar panel worked really well on a recent week-long trip to Tofino. We were able to run the fridge, lights, charge two large smartphones, watch movies on a 19 inch 12V TV from a small PC (running directly off of 12V), run the AquaCube on-demand hot-water heater, and charge a few other items (bike lights, GPS, etc.) and never go below 12.4V. The weather was not exactly ideal, as it alternated between foggy/cloudy and sunny. Note that I also hooked up a small portable 20W panel to follow the sun throughout the day, but I probably didn't even need it.


(voltage reading while running the Aquacube in full sunlight)

Merian Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:39 pm

Wow! How old were the tires when they failed catastrophically?

If less than 6 yrs., I think you should notify NHTSA, US DOT, CPSC... not to get $$ but to alert them to safety hazards.

ChilliConCarnage Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:10 am

Merian wrote: Wow! How old were the tires when they failed catastrophically?

If less than 6 yrs., I think you should notify NHTSA, US DOT, CPSC... not to get $$ but to alert them to safety hazards.

Manufacture date code on the tires = 2009



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