Simple RV Mods We Wish We Would Have Done A Long Time Ago

When you are working and traveling, it isn’t often that you have the time or money to make modifications.  You think about them, but real life usually gets in the way and they just don’t get done. (No matter how interested I am in doing these things, I am always very wary of starting something and running out of time. Everything always takes longer than I think it will, sometimes by as much as 100%. And we usually aren’t 15 minutes from a hardware store or Home Depot or Lowe’s, so that’s also a factor. Running back and forth for pieces and parts is a much bigger deal when it’s an hour in each direction. – Lee)  Thankfully though we are in one place for an extended period of time, and for once have both the time and the money. (We’re also 15 minutes from a Home Depot! – Lee) It’s also been super hot (still hitting 100 degrees every day) and Lee would much rather be inside than out.  I just try to keep out of his way when he gets rolling and not do anything to slow him down.

The first modification was to add to the storage area under the bed.  Like most RV’s our bed has storage under it. The mattress sits on a box, and on top of the box is a “lid” with a hinge. There are gas lifts on the lid that assist in lifting it and the mattress to give us access to a nice little storage area. The part of the box that is at the head of the bed is in the slideout, and the rest of it sits on the floor. All of the box is one piece, but only the part that sits on the floor is storage. (That storage area is 4′ wide, 29″ long and 16″ deep, giving us a total volume of  12.8 cubic feet. – Lee) We didn’t know for sure what was in the other remaining space of the box, but Lee wanted to check it out and if possible reclaim the space. (You know I like to reclaim space. Here is a post from a while back where I found some wasted space inside the rig that significantly increased our pantry area, it’s the last mod on the page. And another where I increased the space in a small baggage compartment by almost 50%! That’s near the end of the post. – Lee)  In order to get to it he had to pull the mattress completely off and then look at the bed. He then removed that section of board and found a huge unused space underneath. (Reclaiming that space was pretty straightforward, but required a little bit of re-engineering of how the box was used. The original design has the lid attached to the non-opening box top with a few hinges. That anchors the hinges, and if I used the that top for a second lid, then the entire top wouldn’t be anchored and would just slide around. You can see in the picture below the section of the top that is not the lid, the lid is under the mattress. – Lee)

(There’s a lot of pressure on the hinges from the gas lifts, plus the wood is only 1/2″ thick, so you can see where the screws, which were not quite 1/2″ had worked themselves out of the wood over time. – Lee)

(So this is what I found under that second section of top. Just a nice big wasted space. – Lee)


(Because our slides are elevated 6″, this space is not quite as deep as the existing storage, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. This is an area 4′ wide, 29″ long and 10″ deep, for a total volume of 13920 cubic inches, or 8 cubic feet. It’s essentially the same as the “front” space, except that it’s 6″ shallower. So we ended up with 20.8 cubic feet instead of 12.8, a 38.5% increase!!! That’s a LOT of space in a rig to just magic out of thin air. Here’s a helpful idea of what you can do with 8 cubic feet, represented by a woman holding a box that’s 3 cubic feet. So imagine if she had absurdly long arms and could hold 2.66 of those boxes! – Lee)

(In order to create a new hinged lid for that “back” area, I needed to cut the plywood into three pieces. Two narrow strips to use as “anchors” for both hinges, and one large piece to serve as the lid for the back area. I didn’t want to cut it myself, because with hinges you really need perfectly straight cuts, so I went to Home Depot. They will do cuts on a panel saw for free, but of course I had to buy the wood, which is OK because I had another plan for the piece I took from under the mattress, which I will cover in another post. I also decided to replace the hinges that were already there, they were just not heavy enough. Once I had the wood cut I put one strip all the way against the wall and added the hinges and the other in the middle, to anchor the original lid. I also added a piece of lumber to “bridge” the gap between the lid and the hinge anchor so the thin plywood wouldn’t bow in the middle once there was weight on it. – Lee)

It was relatively simple to do and made us both wonder why we hadn’t done it before! It actually took longer to figure out what would go in there (seldom used items like winter coats, sleeping bags, etc) than to do the work. (The best part of this is that it allowed me to take 1/2 the stuff that was in the “front” storage under the bed and put it in the back, which is all stuff we will hardly ever need, freeing up the space in the easier to access front for things we will need more often. Here’s what I was able to put in that reclaimed space: Queen size air mattress, 2 adult sleeping bags, 20 XL T-shirts, 4 sets of long johns, a pair each of dress shoes, cowboy boots and steel toed work boots, 6 long sleeve dress shirts, a spare set of queen sheets, a full size memory foam pillow, 8 pairs of over the calf socks, two belts, 2 ties, a shoe shine kit, and 4 pairs of jeans. – Lee) 


Next up was replacing our television set in the bedroom with a smart TV.  (A smart TV allows you watch streaming channels like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc, by using your WiFi. You can also put video files on a USB stick or external USB drive and plug it in to the TV to watch those files. – Lee) I never watch the TV in there because it is too small for me to see and Lee never watches it because he can’t use a memory stick to play files we have.  Replacing the old 27″ Furrion with a 32″ ROKU TCL gave us both a larger screen and smart TV capability.  Best of all it was lighter than the old one and at $140 was a bargain!!  Again, big benefit for minimal cost and labor. (This was ridiculously simple, all I had to do was measure the space between the existing mount and the ceiling of the bedroom to make sure that whatever we bought would fit. I did NOT want to move that mount. Generally when those are installed at the factory, they use a large backing plate and if you remove the mount, there’s not necessarily anywhere solid enough to remount it. – Lee)

Lastly we finally replaced our microwave with a convection microwave. I remember vividly not wanting a convection oven as an upgrade when we ordered our rig, but as soon as I saw other people using theirs to bake I regretted it.  Baking in a propane oven is not fun.    I always said when the microwave died we would replace it with with a convection, but five years later it is still going strong.  Luckily Lee did some research and learned the company who made our microwave also made a convection version, in the exact same case!  This was important because it meant he wouldn’t need to do anything with the cabinetry or the wall mount.  It would just be a matter of taking the old one down, and putting the new one up. The convection oven was also only $370, much cheaper than I expected it to be.  So, Lee ordered the convection oven and voila!  Again, something I wish we had done a long time ago.

Original RV microwave


Space once it was removed. I was able to help with this. Lee held it up while I took out the screws in the top that hold it in place. Most of the weight is on the bracket on the back wall. Once the retaining screws were out the two of us tilted it forward and lifted it off the bracket together.


The one thing I will say about this change was having two strong people really helped when we put the new one up.  It’s possible Lee and I would have been able to do it, but having Greg who is both tall and strong was a definite benefit.  There is a metal hanger that the old one slid off and the new one had to slide on.  Once it was on the hanger one person had to hold it while the other screwed it in.  It’s a tight space and the convection oven is a bit bulky so Greg really helped.

The guys bringing in the new microwave


It was hard to slide it on the metal lip



None of these jobs was particularly difficult, but you have to know what you are doing.  So far I really like the convection oven.  I baked cookies and egg rolls and they both came out really good.  I was a little intimidated at first so I read the manual, and it is important that you use the right cooking containers depending on which setting you are using.  I even watched a couple of You Tube videos, which helped a little, but they both said to adjust the temperature down from the recipe.  I didn’t find that necessary, however, and used the same temperature and cook times that the recipe called for.

Next up we reclaim some extra space by removing our RV oven and cooktop. This is a much harder job, and as such will be getting it’s own post. Stay tuned!

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First Time with a Major Repair

Just a few days ago I posted about the fact that our rig had just turned two years old and was out of manufacturer’s warranty.  To this point, the problems we have experienced have been minor and we were really feeling lucky.  Well, I am not sure if I jinxed us, but just as we pulled out of the campground to head towards Charleston to spend the week with our oldest daughter, Lee noticed that the rig seemed low on the passenger side, and pulled over.  One side of the rig was about 4 inches lower than the other, something I would never have noticed .  He stopped immediately, got out and checked, and discovered that a part of the suspension system was broken.  It was 8:30am on a Monday morning and our warranty company in Illinois didn’t open until 9:30 Central time.  Lee googled RV Repair in Rock Hill and made a call. Thankfully, Tim was right down the road and could come take a look within 30 minutes.  Lee is a certified RV Tech and often fixes issues with our rig, but when it comes to something of this magnitude we needed a second opinion.  Tim came right away and verified that one of the shackles on the passenger side was broken.

The image below shows the components. The shackle has two bolts and connects the leaf springs to the equalizer.



And here’s our broken shackle…


He also informed us no one in town would have the part and it would need to be ordered from Lippert.  Thankfully though he also said he could do the work in the campground and when I went inside to speak to the ranger one of the first come first serve sites was open.  These sites can be paid for day by day for up to two weeks and made the most sense in our situation.  So with some help from Tim we got turned around and parked in the site, which was about 50 feet from the site we’ve been in for the past week.

Tim called the warranty company for us and thankfully there was no issue with him performing the service.  He did try to call Lippert, who in turn called Open Range but they would not cover it under manufacturer warranty even though it was so close to the end date.  It also turns out that at 10,000 miles our wheel bearings should have been lubed and we have put around 16,000 on the rig.  That didn’t have anything to do with the shackle breaking (we believe it was stressed back in August when a tire blew on that side and wrapped around the axle), but was another issue that should be resolved prior to our leaving for Alaska.  And one of the lug nuts was turning freely on our new tire (probably over torqued when installed) and the drum should be replaced.  So what started as one problem turned into three and with the long trek through Canada right around the corner we knew we needed to get it resolved.

It was upsetting, of course.  We had planned this week with our daughter for months and were looking forward to seeing her apartment and checking out where she worked. Lee in particular was frustrated by the timing of the incident, but I really, honestly felt blessed.  There are so many places this could have been happened that would have been way worse, and the fact that we were safe, it was somewhat covered by warranty, and didn’t happen in a foreign country or on the side of the interstate many miles from a town are a blessing.  Here’s the thing, the rig is going to break and sooner or later every single one of us is going to have a major repair.  It’s part of the lifestyle.  The timing though, well that’s something totally different. Sometimes these things happen and it’s a minor inconvenience and other times it is major hassle to get the repair completed.  Most of the stories we have heard have been the latter, so the fact that we had a place to stay, were still near family, and were not in the middle of a work commitment is good.  So in those moments you can choose to focus on the positives in the situation or dwell on the negatives.  I chose the former.  There is no sense in being angry that it happened in the first place though.  If you move your home frequently things will happen.  It’s just a fact.  When it happens though, well that is something you can certainly be upset about.  Just keep in mind when it’s your turn that it probably could be worse.

After getting the parts ordered, Lee and I decided to make lemonade and complete a big purge.  Really you should purge every 6 months, especially in the first couple of years and we were going to do it in Quartzsite but things kept getting in the way.  You’ve seen our schedule since then, things have been busy and we are way overdo.  So we went room by room, cabinet by cabinet and went through everything.  Lee set a “no value judgement” rule which worked beautifully.  If either one of us wanted to keep something it stayed…no judgement, and in the end we ended up throwing away 4 bags of “trash” and setting aside 4 big bags of stuff for our daughter Kyrston to go through.  Whatever she doesn’t want we will pitch.  The thing I am most excited about is the reorganizing we did at the same time.  Using the principle of keeping the most used items closest to hand, we not only freed up tons of space, but more importantly put commonly used items in an easy to reach space.  And wow do I have so much more room.  It was a long day and we were both tired at the end of it, but what a great feeling.  We’ve lived in the rig long enough to know what our “problem areas” are and paid particular attention to reorganizing those.  Overall it wasn’t that bad…I think we have done of good job, but we did have some weird stuff we have been holding onto that we were finally OK of letting go of.

I was thrilled when Lee solved the proiblem of where to put the containers

I was thrilled when Lee solved the problem of where to put the food containers


Ooooh pretty

oooh pretty


And this high cabinet has been the bane of my existence

And this high cabinet has been the bane of my existence


Look now!!

Look now!! This is why the girls and I call Lee the “packmaster 9000”.


Everyone has one thing though that they just have to much of and can't get rid of. Books is it for both of us

Everyone has one thing though that they just have to much of and can’t get rid of. Books is it for both of us


So that’s how I felt on Tuesday night when I wrote the above.  It is now Thursday and I am not feeling as chipper.  The parts came in and the tech is on his way. but we have still not received a quote.  We have called three times and been called three times in return by his office manager, but he has been working up the quote this whole time.  Now the tech is coming to start the work and I have no idea how much this is costing me.  Plus, waiting around for this I have lost two days with my daughter.  I could have gone to Charleston either day, but stayed because the quote was coming and I felt I needed to be here.  At this point I don’t feel deliberately manipulated, but more the victim of a disorganized small business.  My anxiety level has risen over the last two days though and only Lee’s faith that it will all work out (that’s a switch) is keeping me somewhat calm.  Here’s the thing, when your home is broken and you can’t move you are a captive audience with extremely limited choices.  Yes, we could have switched to another tech at some point, but when? We even talked about getting the minimal done and heading to Indiana and biting the bullet on a Mor-Ryde suspension system but the timing would have been very tough with our work commitment not to mention the impact on our finances.  Plus based on the experiences of lots of other folks how could we be sure we wouldn’t put ourselves in a worse situation just driving there?  That’s why this whole thing sucks so bad. We are in such a vulnerable position and even with Lee’s technical knowledge there are some things we simply are not equipped to do.

OK, so as I finished typing the above, the call finally came and the tech showed up.  Coincidence I doubt that, but the price to us was $700- $800 which is certainly manageable, and less than either of us thought it would be.  For that we are getting 4 new heavy duty shackles, 2 new heavy duty equalizers, a new drum, all new heavy duty “wet bolts” with grease fittings and all the bearings greased and the brakes inspected.  The image below shows the difference between the old shackle on the right,  and the new heavy duty style. The new ones are more than twice as thick.



The old strut

The old equalizer


The new one...much more heavy duty

The new one…much more heavy duty


The good news is that while we were sitting around waiting for parts to come in and quotes Lee finished our DIY RV Projects (Inside) page.  He has outside projects about 75% done, and we will post that when finished (the ladder box is taking a while to explain).  But I was excited.  Been trying to get that done for over a year and he spent 12 hours in total working on them for me.  Plus Thursday Kyrston and Jeremy made the 3 hour drive up from Charleston (they arrived about 20 minutes after the tech showed up) and brought their new puppy Finnegan! Puppies make everything better and it was so wonderful to get to spend some time with them.  Lee made a huge steak dinner and we played with the puppy (who is super fun and mellow) most of the day.  Plus the repairs went great.  The tech was finished in about 4 hours and after seeing the difference in the quality of new and old parts both Lee and I felt better about the whole thing. Yes it sucked that it happened at all, but when you believe things happen for a reason (as I do), that includes both good and bad.

Jeremy with the puppy

Jeremy with the puppy

Chewing on a stick!

Chewing on a stick!

Kyrston, my oldest daughter

Kyrston, my oldest daughter



Love, love this picture

Love, love this picture


Now we are heading to the RV-Dreams rally on Saturday (just in case we have any kind of an issue) and I can’t wait to see Howard and Linda again and meet all the people there. Should be very fun, and after that we are off to Alaska with a much heavier duty suspension system underneath us!!


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