Productive Week

Travel with our family

Join us as we explore the world in our carbon-neutral, 4x4 expedition vehicle called The EcoRoamer. We are happy to share our travel adventures, family memories and homeschooling experiences as we journey down the road less traveled.

Productive Week

Long Post!

Kurt and I just got back from a very busy but productive week in MI/IN. After several long days of running from place to place the poor little guy’s 3yr old body finally collapsed tonight at 6pm and he’s lying snoring (loudly!) in the room next to me…

Here’s some of the updates of what we got done:

1 – Alternator

For those of you who have been reading this thread for a while, you may recall that this summer while we were in Canada we tried to get a second alternator installed on the CAT engine, and were told flatly that “it couldn’t be done” by both CAT and a recommended alternator specialist.

Well last week, the guys at Van’s Electrical (www.vanselec.com) in Indianapolis somehow managed to do the ‘undoable’.

I had serious reservations about bringing the truck all the way to Indy (about a 4hr drive) just for an alternator, but Leon at Mobile Energy told me that he’d never seen a truck that they couldn’t do. I guess he was right!

Sure enough, they did a beautiful job custom fab’ing a bracket to mount the 24v 200A Leece Neville alternator onto the side of the existing 12v 200A first alternator sharing the same (lengthened) belt. This meant re-routing the radiator coolant piping a little as well, but the install is very clean and it looks like it came from the factory. (PICTURES TO COME…)

It took a week longer than I would have liked, but it was worth the wait and they even drove the truck over to my next stop for me. (see below)

Some of you may be wondering (or clicking your tongues) at our choice of going with 24v for the camper. This is one decision that I have struggled with for a long time.

I’m unhappy/scared about the complexity of having 12v (in the cab) AND 24v (in the camper) AND 120v (after the inverters) all in the same vehicle. We have really tried to keep everything as simple as possible in this truck, and this definitely doesn’t qualify as ‘simple’.

The main reasons for doing it are the advantages of 24v over 12v given the huge loads we want to put on the system.

Our goal is to not have to run the generator, or at least run it as little as possible. The way to do that is through a huge battery bank and substantial solar & alternator charging capabilities.

By going to 24v we can have more than 4 batteries (which start to not play nicely in 12v) by having 4 PAIRS of batteries.

We also have lower current running through the wires, which eases some of the guage requirements.

And… the inverters and solar charge controllers all seem to operate more efficiently at 24v than 12v.

The fact is, outside of the truck cab, we are going to have very little that operates on low-voltage DC anyhow. The lighting is really the largest draw, but all the rest of the appliances are 120v AC anyhow.

Do I sound like I’m justifying this to myself? 

2 – Security Film

One of the other struggles for months has been the idea of the Window Security film.

There have been a number of discussions on ExPo about it (example)
…and I’ve always thought it was a good idea for us, but couldn’t find anyone who has actually installed it on their vehicle, or a dealer who knew how.

In the end I contacted Llumar who claim to have an automotive security film product. They explained to me that while the product is a big seller for them in South America / South Africa (where smash-and-grabs are more common) they had sold almost zero feet of the film in the USA in the past five years.

There was some obsolete 4mil film sitting on a back shelf somewhere and they offered it to me at a substantial discount.

I worked with Paul’s Glass in Indy to strip off my old tinting and put on the new security film. It’s not easy to do since it is so thick & stiff, but they did a great job with no bubbles or slipped edges anywhere.

It’s nice to be able to see out of the side windows of the truck again (it had limo dark tinting before – useless!) though I keep fighting back the urge to take a brick and whack the windows just to prove they won’t break… I won’t.

I posted this video last time, but it’s worth watching if you didn’t see it before.

3 – Alarm

Paul’s Glass also runs a stereo/car alarm shop called Mobile Concepts, so I went back the next morning to get Matt Julius there to take a look at our alarm which wasn’t working.

Now, I generally hate car alarms and think they’re pretty useless. They are going off constantly in my neighborhood and I don’t think anyone pays them any attention.

However there were two reasons why I chose (after a lot of research) to buy & install the Clifford Intelliguard 770 alarm:

1 – The Blackjax anti-carjacking system. Essentially, you enter a pin code on the dashboard when you start the car. If you ever get carjacked, you just walk away and let the guy take the truck. He won’t know to enter the pin code and will just drive away. The system then counts down for 60 seconds and then sounds the alarm and slows the engine, turning on the immobilzer when the truck has stopped. This gets them safely away from you, but within a small enough radius that you can find your vehicle again. You can watch a YouTube video of the system working, here.

2 – The truck didn’t have remote door locks, and having to reach up the 6ft to get to the lock switch every time you want to put the kids in the car was becoming a pain. The remote control for the Clifford allows me to connect 3 other relays as well, which I think we’ll use for the camper door and window shutters.

4 – Stairs

After several hours of Bob The Builder on the headrest screens, Kurt and I made it from Indianapolis back to Sturgis and met with Matt Sutter from Michiana Laminatedto review the final mock-up of the stairs unit.

What looks like a fairly simple piece of furniture is actually doing quadruple duty:

1 – It provides stairs up to the kids’ “bedroom” over the cab.

2 – It has a lot of storage built in to it, including the electronics cabinet

3 – It is the entry way into the “spare bedroom” tent, with a slide out step on the rear side of the steps.

4 – As the first cabinet that we’re building, it’s setting the standards for all the other bamboo pieces including latch choices, hinges, door overlaps, etc.

Here is what the mock-up looks like:

And here’s Kurt (and his toy cars) checking to see if the stairs work:

The final version will be built out of the PlyBoo material, with the Laminate floor surface.

We signed it off, which is a major hurdle towards Matt & Michiana now building the rest of the bamboo kitchen cabinets, dinette, kids’ beds, pantry, etc.

I’m pretty excited because it means the interior of the camper is starting to come together! 

5 – Conference

Finally, last night we spun the four chairs in the cab around to face each other and had a “Production Meeting” in conference room “eco 1”. It was pretty funny actually, and kind of sad to see how such a big truck feels very small when you squeeze four big guys into it facing each other.

We set out the plan for the next few weeks… We’re really pushing to get the truck ‘ready enough’ to make it to the Overland Expo in Arizona in April. I know that a lot of you are going to be there, and I’m really hoping that we can have the vehicle ready to bring there to get your first hand impressions and suggestions.

Some updates you can expect soon:

  • The water filtration system is on its way now – more info to come on that.

  • The solar panels should be going up on the roof in the next week or so, I’ll upload some pics of those on the EcoRoamer website when they’re installed.

  • I met with the guys at Pro-Air this week about the Diesel fired heating / air-conditioning / hot-water system. That should be taking shape soon and I’ll post my plans for that.

In the mean time, thanks for reading this VERY long post. It’s been a great week and I’m excited to have so much to tell you…


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