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Contests

June Mod Contest: Mega Mods

Dinettes have been transformed, power monitors installed, camper trailers created, generator boxes expanded, and more.  Choose your favorite Mega Mod, and vote.

June 2016 Mega Mod Contest

Welcome to the June 2016 Mega Mod Contest.  Please review the following six Mega Mods and vote for your favorite.  We will announce the June 2016 Mod Contest winner next week.  For more information about the Monthly Mod Contest, including how to enter, click here.

Click here to vote for your favorite June Mega Mod!

1. Allen Perry, Sun City, California
1996 Ford F250
2013 Palomino 2902 back pack

In 2014, I purchased a Palomino Max 2902.  A newly purchased Ford F250 with four-wheel drive didn’t have the capacity for the Palomino, so I decided to attach the camper to my Ford dually bed trailer rated to hold 7,500 pounds.  With this set-up, I can go anywhere, leave it if necessary, and still have use of my truck.

travel-trailer-truck-camper

I originally intended only to use the trailer for moving the camper around, but decided to keep the camper on the bed trailer.  Since the only license required is the trailer, it works out fine.  The license cost is $10 every five years.

travel-trailer-truck-camper-3

The Ford dually that the truck bed came from would no longer pass the required smog test, so I had to junk it.  I kept the bed and frame to make the trailer.  In the future, if I upgrade to a larger camper, the trailer should be able to handle it.

truck-camper-turned-trailer

I can now travel with full water tanks and a loaded camper.  I added two more 30 pound propane tanks.  The trailer also has two gas tanks holding 38 gallons of extra gas for emergencies or boondocking with the generator.  In the front there is also a contractor tool box that holds all the sewer hoses, camp stove, and three extra batteries.

It took me 100 hours to complete this modification and cost me about $2,000.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is hard.

2. Charles Coushaine, Punta Gorda, Florida
2001 Ford F350
2012 Chalet DS116RB

Before the recliners, as a standard camper dinette:

Dinette before recliners

With the recliners, and it can still be converted back to a dinette at any time:

Lazyboy recliners in a truck camper

We changed our dinette to Lazyboy-style recliners.  This changeover can be accomplished without any tools, and can easily be changed back if we wish.

Lazyboy-Recliners-Camper-3

The essence of this change was to give us more comfortable seating during our multi-month truck camping travels.

Lazyboy recliner and small table

In addition to the new seats, this modification includes custom articulating tables to allow eating and use laptops.  The articulating tables pivot out of the way for sitting down and travel.  The seating and table change should be a perfect upgrade for our lifestyle.

Watch the video to see the changeover happen:

Before finding the right chairs, we tried several chairs that didn’t work out.  One was a video gaming chair that was too stiff and not cushiony enough (sent back).  Another was an IKEA chair that I had to cut 6-inches off its height (broke, not robust enough).

The chairs we settled on are perfect.  They are leather, with arms, swivel, and the back tilts.  The chairs are called “floor chairs” and, after exhausting internet searches, could only be found in China.  Although moderately expensive, we spent the money and are thrilled with the quality.  Here is a link to the chairs.

The articulating arm was found easily on Amazon.  As expected, it had to be customized to fit our camper.

Enjoying the recliners in a camper

It took me 10 hours to complete this modification and cost me roughly $550.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

3. Matthew Phipps, Wright, Wyoming
2014 Ford F150
2008 Apache camper

In Wyoming, most camping, and the best camping, involves off-grid boondocking.  I despise generators, so solar was the route I took.  After installing the solar system I was constantly wondering how much power was going in and out of my batteries.  I needed a way to monitor the charge/discharge rate of my batteries as well as a central control center to be able to isolate and select from multiple power sources (truck, solar, shore, battery, inverter, converter).  I also got tired of the multiple connections to the top of the batteries.

converter-inverter-upgrade-6 converter-inverter schematic schematic of converter upgrade

 
Above: The schematics of this modification – click to enlarge

Let me just start by saying that this mod is very technical and I am a licensed Electrician with 19 years of experience.  Taking on a project such as this can lead to very serious consequences and even death if done incorrectly.  Please contact a certified Electrician if there are any questions or doubts.

converter-inverter-upgrade under refrigerator

Below the refrigerator was a fairly large amount of dead space hidden behind a decorative wood panel.  I removed the panel and built a new face plate out of thin steel.  I installed a 400-watt inverter and a junction block in the dead space.

In the battery cabinet, I installed a 1amp/1mv shunt and ran a single 8ga conductor from the battery to the shunt and then to the terminal block.  All other connections run to the terminal block hidden behind the new control panel thus cleaning up the battery box.

converter-inverter-upgrade-4

On the front of the control panel is a meter for monitoring amp draw/charge (+ polarity for charge and – polarity for drain) and a meter for monitoring battery voltage level (state of charge).  Even though the meters have a minimal draw, every mv counts so I installed switches to turn the meters off when not in use.  In addition, I installed an on/off switch to turn the inverter off when not in use.  I also installed a selector to switch between the inverter power and converter power and a 5 amp push to reset breaker to limit the draw on the inverter.

Behind the panel I mounted a 400-watt inverter I bought for 60 bucks at Walmart.  It’s large enough to handle a television and DVD player, or phone/computer charger, or desk lamp.  The inverter has an outlet for AC output and alligator clips for DC input.

I cut off the female end of a short extension cord and wired through a push to reset the 5 amp breaker to one side of a DPDT switch on the control panel.  The other end just plugs into the inverter.  I cut the alligator clips off and hard wired the DC input voltage to the terminal block.  I did have to open up the inverter and extend the wires for the on/off switch so they would reach the new control panel.

converter-inverter-upgrade-5

I opened the factory converter and removed the wire that feeds the 110 outlets in the camper.  I rerouted that wire to the common of the DPDT selector switch mentioned above.  I installed a new piece of 12-3 SO cord from the breaker in the converter to the other side of the same DPDT switch.

In order to isolate multiple charging systems from back feeding onto each other, I installed a blocking diode on the wires feeding the terminal block from the truck and solar charging supply system.  My pickup already has a built in battery isolator so this wasn’t needed, but I would strongly suggest installing one if not already present.  This will allow you to leave the camper plugged into your truck with out worrying about draining the truck’s battery.

measuring amps and volts

Since installing the control panel, I no longer wonder if my furnace will run all night with out depleting my batteries.  I know exactly how much draw each appliance has and know exactly how long I can run each item.  I am able to see how much battery life I have left as well as how much my solar system is charging.  I no longer wonder three days into a week long trip if my batteries will last.

Apache truck camper

It took me twelve hours to complete this modification and cost me roughly $150.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is extremely hard.

4. Brian Sibbles, Garden Hill, Ontario
2015 Ram 1500
2012 Travel Lite 800SBX

The mod started out for two reasons.  First, we needed more over cab clearance so the camper had to be raised 1.5-inches.

before the floor frame

Second, we wanted a more portable floor support system. We didn’t want to carry saw horses around when unloading for longer stays and staying in one location.

wood-under-camper-floor-platform

I started by building a wood frame made of 2x3s to gain the 1.5-inch lift we needed. Then, I cut out the wood to accept the steel inserts which will become the receiver for adjustable support legs.

legs out of tubing

Afterwards I constructed the support legs out of 100 wall 1.5-inch and 1.25-inch tubing at 13-inches of length giving me a maximum of 22-inches in height when extended.  Holes were drilled every 7/8-inch at 3/8-inch diameter to later allow for a 3/8-inch pin to be installed to hold position.

support-leg-with-notches

On the inner tube (1.25-inch) we drilled the bottom hole at 5/8-inch from the bottom to align with the multiple outer tube holes.  This allows you to have 7/8s adjustment by going through the aligned holes or 3/8s adjustment by going through the outer tube hole and not the inner tube hole.  The pin rests on the bottom on the inner tube instead of the aligned hole.

support-legs-hanging

Next, we built small feet to be placed on wooded blocks for better weight distribution.  We needed a way to store the legs when loaded so we installed 1.5-inch angle iron with holes to the underside of the camper.

support legs mounted under camper

When loaded in the truck, these are tucked up just high enough to not contact the bed of the truck as we dropped the wood 2×3 spacer down 1/8-inch using the existing aluminum angle and added small spacers at every floor joist for added support.

support legs mounted under camper

Everything was then painted in white to match up with the camper and installed.  Another cross member was added later on in the middle position for added support.  Not because it was lacking, just because we had a piece of wood extra, so why the heck not?  That is not seen in the photos.

floor-frame-platform-9

If you can weld and metal fabricate, this is an easy job.  You could also have a shop build the pieces required for you.

support-camper-off-truck

This system works really well.  We stay in the camper when it’s not on the truck with all four power jacks down just enough to have weight on the four new adjustable legs.  We always try to have the adjustable legs at their lowest point to reduce any lateral movement.  We distribute the weight evenly to the best of our ability by adjusting the power jacks.  There is almost no movement with two adults and a child staying inside.  We are very happy with it and its light weight.

It took me 18 hours to complete this modification and cost me $125 CAD.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is extremely hard.

5. Douglas Tatman, Lafayette, Louisiana
2005 Dodge 3500 Dually
2003 Lance 1130

Our 2003 Lance 1130 came with a built-in Generac Impact 34 generator.  They were notoriously troublesome for some and, when mine broke (again), I decided to just remove it.

empty generator compartment

I was left with the galvanized metal box that Lance used for the generator.  Like many, I decided to attach a floor across the base of the opening to repurpose it as a storage compartment.

generator-compartment-frame

But, realizing there was a huge amount of space beneath that box, I added a framed basement for additional depth and volume.

generator-box-b2

At the time, I was already looking for a way to add an additional battery to the camper.  The metal frame was built for the purpose of holding the battery weight, as opposed to just a lightly framed box.

generator-box-b3 generator-box-b4

 
The framed box hangs securely from the original generator support bolts and lag screws, and is sealed to the underside of the floor of the camper.  In all, I added just under eight cubic feet of storage to the truck camper.

generator-box-c2 generator-box-c5

 
The Generac was electric start.   Since Lance ran its starter wires straight from the camper’s house battery, I decided to repurpose them as a direct connection to add to the capacity of the existing house battery.

generator compartment with battery wires

In the pictures, you can see the Generator starter wires.   The battery will be mounted at back of box.  There are room for two batteries.

generator-box-completed

The dimensions of the box were restricted to be no lower than the camper’s wall-skirt (left side of picture) and short enough not to hit the truck’s back bumper or tail lights with the camper loaded.

The outside of the box was waterproofed with aluminum flashing and glued with contact cement.  While my materials of choice for the sides could have been better, it’s what I had at the time.   The ventilation screen on the generator’s door was also sealed with aluminum flashing.

generator box exterior

So far, the new battery box not been tested in severe wet or dusty conditions.  The seals of the back door have been enhanced with additional weather stripping, but that’s a detail that hasn’t been tweaked yet.

While welding was done on this particular mod, the framework could easily be cut and bolted together using nothing more than a hacksaw, a hand drill, and fasteners.  Considering this was a prototype, the materials of choice, both metal and sides, could be vastly improved.

It took me ten hours to complete this modification and cost me $100.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

6. Steven Sternberg, New London, Wisconsin
2013 Chevrolet 2500HD
2012 Palomino Maverick 8801

bed-rail-centering-guides-1

I did this bed rail modification to keep the camper centered in the box.  I originally made this mod for hauling bicycles.

bed-rail-centering-guides-3

When I got a camper I decided to put plastic slides on the truck to center the camper when loading.

bed-rail-centering-guides-2

The GM pickups are wider in the front of the box than in the back.  The mod makes it a little more difficult to load because I made it one inch wider on both sides.

bed-rail-centering-guides-4 bed-rail-centering-guides-5

 
It took me four hours to complete this modification and cost me $50.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

Click here to vote for your favorite June Mega Mod!

Disclaimer: The modifications above are submitted by Truck Camper Magazine readers. It is your responsibility to make sure that any do-it-yourself modification project you undertake is safe, effective, and legal for your situation.

Enter Your Mods Now!

If you’d like to enter mods into TCM’s Monthly Mod Contest, click here.  You can enter as many mods as you want, at any time.  Good luck mod makers!

 

Truck Camper Information
American RV Dealership Grand Rapids, Michigan

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