We knew when purchasing a new motorhome there would be modifications and upgrades that we would want to make to make the vehicle more like a home and be able to provide a more comfortable lifestyle. We had read many reviews on various models of motorhomes including the one we purchased and knew that it would not be perfect and that some work would need to be done before venturing out long distances. These mods were not because things didn’t work but because they didn’t work they way we would like them to, as usual!
We made both major upgrades and some minor ones. We prioritized our list and focused on the ones we knew for sure we wanted. We have another list of potential items to do in the future but we will wait on those. We will cover those items in a future post.
We will start with the major upgrades and modifications first.
1) Addition of a Satellite Dish
The View came pre-wired for satellite but did not have a Satellite Dish mounted on the roof. No problem for us as we added one. We added a Pathway X1 Antenna (White) & DISH Wally HD Receiver Bundle. This required a roof mount kit and was easily installed and so far, knock on wood, works like a charm.
Of course we do have a DISH satellite subscription for On The Go (RV) along with a DVR which we had on our previous motorhome. We mounted the receiver vertically against the back wall of the cabinet behind the TV to help save space. The DVR sits on top of it and both are attached to the wall behind them.
2) Added 2 More Solar Panels
Our View came with 2-100 watt solar panels mounted flat on the roof.
We knew we needed to upgrade the solar and the batteries to allow us to boondock and keep the compressor fridge going amongst other items. Tests which were done by Litchsinn RV on a Winnebago Navion/View on the Zamp Solar System powering a Norcold Refrigerator is documented on You Tube.
The tests showed that the fridge could maintain adequate cooling temperatures for about 3 days when using nothing else (no one living in it and using lights, TV, water pump, etc.). The sky was a bit cloudy/overcast for the tests which allowed for some testing in real situations. A limitation of approximately 3 days is not ideal and we knew we needed to do something, either replace the fridge with a 3 way (AC,DC,propane) or add more solar and battery capacity. We thought we would take the easy route first (the latter) and see how that works before buying and installing a new fridge.
A generator can be used to charge up the batteries but we really hate to run the rather noisy generator and try not to except for situations when we have no other viable alternative and/or maintenance.
With the factory installed 2 solar panels already on the roof on the passenger side there isn’t much real estate left to add many more panels but it can be done. There is some shading which is bound to occur from the a/c and also from the newly mounted satellite dish that we installed. My husband laid out a few different designs with different sized panels to figure out the best use of real estate measured against wattage, cost, and benefits.
The additional solar panels we purchased were the Renogy (2 pieces) 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panels and we mounted them on the roof on the driver side. This would give us a theoretical total of 400 Watts of solar energy.
Below is the wiring diagram for panels as provided by Renogy. The View came equipped with three ports with SAE connectors on the roof for attaching solar panels. Two of the ports were used by the existing Zamp panels so the third port was used for the additional two panels which were wired in parallel. The only potential glitch during the install is that the existing SAE connectors which are available are wired opposite to the de-facto standard for SAE connectors. This required making a short “gender changer” cable and an adapter cable to go from the standard MC4 solar connectors to the reverse-wired SAE connector on the open port.
Our new panels prior to mounting
Panels being mounted – note the newly installed Satellite Dish also in the picture
Here are the panels in action.
During periods of unobstructed sunshine on a partly cloudy day we were seeing some readings like this:
On a party cloudy day, in Arizona, in March the panels were producing about 90 Amp-hours (Ah) and we were waking up in the morning with the house and chassis batteries over 13 volts. So far so good!
3) Replaced The Original House Batteries
The original house batteries provided by Winnebago were 2 deep-cycle Group 24 RV batteries (flooded lead-acid) which each weigh about 42 lbs and are 9 3/8 in high and 10 3/4 in wide and are rated at approximately 70 Ah. Since they are lead-acid batteries the actual usable capacity is roughly 50% of the rated capacity. That’s a total of 84 lbs and approximately 70 Ah which we calculated to be inadequate for boondocking. The compressor fridge seems to have a duty cycle of close to 50% even in relatively cool weather and the compressor draws more than 5A when active so the fridge alone requires roughly 60Ah. When we add in lights, some TV viewing, charging laptops, etc. the daily Ah capacity required to avoid running the generator is well beyond the capacity of the OEM batteries – we clearly needed significantly more battery capacity!
We replaced the OEM betteries with Lithium-Iron-Phosphate Batteries (LiFePO4) 12 Volt 100 Ah) which each weigh about 28 lbs and are approximately 260 mm (10.2 inches) long, 158 mm (6.2 inches) wide, and 246 mm high (9.6 inches). This means that the LiFePO4 batteries are a drop-in replacement for the original house batteries. They weigh significantly less (total of 56 lbs) and provide much more energy. LiFePO4 batteries have more usable capacity of up to 80% without significantly shortening the life of the batteries. Overall these batteries give us roughly double the capacity and a saving of 28 lbs from the original lead acid batteries.
Besides being lighter and having more usable capacity, the LiFePO4 batteries also are faster and more efficient at charging, are pretty much maintenance free, and have an extended life cycle.
The down side? They are not inexpensive!
The original batteries were located under the steps when you enter the motorhome from behind the passenger seat. We removed the original batteries and inserted the 2 new LiFePO4 batteries which are lighter and fit easily in the existing battery compartment. Some re-cabling was required since the LiFePO4 batteries had the posts on the opposite side.
4) Added A Starting Battery Charger/Maintainer
A major omission in Winnebago’s DC electrical design is that the chassis batteries are not charged in concert with the house batteries. When parked for a period of time the parasitic loads on the chassis batteries will run them down even if the vehicle is plugged into shore power with the converter maintaining the house batteries fully charged. We added a Trik-L Start module which allows for charging the chassis batteries from the house batteries when the house batteries are above a threshold voltage (approx 13.2V). This ensures the chassis batteries are maintained as long as the house batteries are being charged by shore power, generator, or solar panels.
There is a battery boost switch on the 3500 Sprinter Chassis which allows you to use your house batteries to jump start your chassis batteries but it is not good for the chassis batteries to be running them down.
There is also a switch on the dash to change the radio from Engine to House batteries. You can switch the radio to house batteries to allow the operation of the dash radio (Riverpark Xite) while parked and hopefully then not put a drain on the chassis batteries. Switch it back to Engine while driving. Since installing the Trik-L-Start module, we tend to leave the switch in the Engine position.
The Trik-L-Start seems to be working fine.
5) Added Sewer Hose Storage
Our View came with a sewer hose storage container on the driver side’s basement which is located under the slide. It is difficult to use those basement compartments when the slide is out but not impossible. The compartment has a plastic container with an opening that you can slide a BARE sewer hose into but you must first remove any fitting on the end. This is cumbersome at best, and just plain ridiculous considering you no longer have a positive connection at the sewer entrance. You have to just shove the bare sewer hose down the hole and hope it doesn’t pop out during a dump of the black tank! Overall this potentially good idea of a storage compartment was completely unworkable and was removed to provide a good bit more storage in the rear compartment.
Both of these items were addressed by removing the sewer hose storage plastic container whereby freeing up more basement compartment storage space. More space is always good.
We purchased a sewer hose storage system which mounts to the bottom of the rig close to the dump controls. We purchased a Super-Slider Adjustable Super-Tube 43/80 after watching a review by The Fit RV on You Tube .
This tube is big enough to accommodate the hose with connector attached and it is MUCH easier to insert/retrieve the hose plus it is adjacent to the dump valve and not under the slide – another big bonus.
It works great!!!!
6) Added a DC-DC Variable Converter for Reduction of Solenoid Power Consumption
The View has an electrically operated solenoid which opens and closes the main valve on the LP tank. This switch-operated valve is convenient however it draws a considerable amount of current in the “ON” position. When the solenoid is on the coil is continually energized which draws roughly 900mA at 13.2 VDC from the batteries when not connected to shore power. This drain amounts to roughly 1 AH or 24 AH over a 24 hour period. Of course if propane isn’t required full-time this could be reduced by only switching the LP on when required. This isn’t practical when the furnace or hot water are required.
Other View owners had reported that the solenoid valve will operate at a much lower voltage than the nominal 13.2 VDC. Lowering the voltage applied to the solenoid will proportionally reduce the current and overall energy required to keep the LP available to the coach. In order to reduce the voltage I installed a DC-DC variable converter with adjustable current limiting and LED readouts for voltage & current.
The solenoid now operates reliably at 5.0 VDC and only draws 170 mA so the 24 Hr usage is reduced from 24 AH to roughly 4.5 AH and when boondocking and charging the battery bank using solar panels this is a significant saving.
Other Miscellaneous Modifications
7) Removal of Various Items
The following items were removed from the RV to give us more space and to save on our weight allowance. We did not dispose of them but they were items we didn’t think we would be using or we thought they were not necessary. We still have them and can put them back in anytime we want.
2 Booster Seats – The Sprinter Chassis driver and passenger seats can swivel to face into the coach therefore 2 booster seats are provided so when you sit on the seats your knees don’t come to your chin (ha, ha…). We had a Sprinter chassis before and rarely swiveled the seats so we thought we would remove them and save on storage space.
Extra table and pole – The View 24D comes with an extra table and pole which can be mounted either between the driver and passenger seats or next to the couch. We felt that our needs only required the dinette table and again we wanted to save on space and weight so we removed them.
Both sink covers – The kitchen sink has 2 sink covers which provide extra counter space. We felt the kitchen counter space was adequate and having the 2 sink covers would require always having to put them somewhere when using the sink. Out they go!
Curtain which hangs around bed – The View comes with a large curtain which can be hung around the Murphy bed/couch to provide privacy. This isn’t something needed by us and takes up a fair bit of storage space that could be used for clothes or other items. Out it goes!
Cab over bunk mattress and ladder – The mattress and ladder weigh quite a bit and when we aren’t in need of extra sleeping space then out it goes. We added a carpet to the area where the mattress usually sits for both aesthetic reasons and also to keep items (such as coats and hats) more secure. Of course, if the grandkids come then we can easily put the mattress and ladder back in.
8) Added a TPMS – Tire Pressure Monitoring System
We removed the TPMS from our previous Class A and are now using it on our View. We bought it years ago at the RV tent show in Quartzsite and it still works great.
9) Adjusted the Kitchen Sink Faucet
On our first drive from the RV dealer home we noticed that the kitchen sink faucet would easily swivel, even while driving. It would swing around and hit the kitchen window. Not good. So when we got home my husband added an thick rubber elastic band around the fixture to allow it to still swivel but with some resistance so it now stays put. Problem solved! And it looks half decent.
10) Bubble Levelers
We don’t have hydraulic leveling jacks with this RV but we do have stabilizers. This will mean a bit more of a job to level. My hubby installed a couple bubble levelers hidden inside the fuel door to aid with leveling. When the fuel door is open one bubble indicates fore/aft level and the other indicates the side-to-side level.
11) Added a trash can under sink
One of the problems we saw with many of the Class B+/Class C motorhomes we looked at was either no location for a decent sized trash can or no location for a trash can at all. What is a decent sized trash can you ask? Well, that is very subjective.
We measured the area under the sink very carefully and looked around both at stores and online for a trash can (with a lid/cover – a strong requirement since we are sleeping close to the trash) that would fit under the sink. The trash can needed to not have a straight flip up lid due to the small area. We found, what we thought was, a perfect sized trash can with a swing top lid online at Wayfair. We ordered it and, lo and behold, the advertised measurements were for the trash can without taking into account the lid therefore it did not fit under the sink. We did, however, decide to keep it (and notified Wayfair of the actual measurements) and simply cut a section out and pop-rivited it back together.
There is now plenty of room to allow the swing top trash can to swing and not hit the sink above it. We love the modified can and it works perfectly! By the way, it was advertised as 9.5 gallons and when we received the product it stated it was 9.2 gallons. After cutting it down we assume it is around 7 or 8 gallons. That to us is a decent sized trash can. The only other one we could find was 2.6 gallons. That would not be a decent sized trash can to us.
12) Added Boot Trays
Boot trays make an easy place to store shoes/boots for easy access when parked. We purchased 2 shoe trays which are 20″ x 15″ each and they can either be stacked when traveling or put one behind each of the drivers seat and the passenger seat when parked. These are smaller than normal shoe trays and we found that the standard sized ones were in the way when we walked from the cab to the coach and vice versa.
13) Foot Stool
We purchased a bean bag foot stool to use by the couch and opted to not use the table which can be mounted by the couch when parked. We felt the dinette table was good enough for us but can always change our mind later. The foot stool is light enough to be stowed on the cab over bunk and small enough to fit under the bed when the Murphy bed is pulled down. It can also be used a extra seating or as a little coffee table.
AND a variety of other upgrades
14) We mounted a indoor/outdoor temperature gauge and clock to the wall which we had in our Class A.
15) We mounted a magazine rack by the dinette for various items such as reservations, maps, e-readers, mail, etc.
16) We installed brackets in the driver side basement (rear wall) to mount wash brushes and our hiking sticks.
17) We labeled several of the switches which were not labelled to help us remember what is what. They included the switches as you enter the coach on the left side and are for the outside light, the cab over bunk light, the skylight, and the galley light. We also labeled the switches outside the bathroom door for the Murphy bed up/down and the bedroom ceiling light.
18) We added labels to the dashboard (in both feet/inches and metres) of the height of the RV and the length of the RV. This helps in quick decisions when driving anywhere where there are height or length restrictions. Having it in metres helps us quickly from doing the math (and making an error) while driving in Canada.
19) We put a label on the Truma control switch in the bathroom. The dial is located in the corner of the bathroom and the controls are very difficult to read because they are small and in the shadows. We put a piece of tape on the control dial and also on the off switch to know they need to be aligned to have the unit off. Otherwise it is impossible to see where the dial is located.
20) We added 2 additional shelves in the bathroom medicine cabinet and 1 additional shelf in the cabinet below the bathroom sink.
21) We mounted a small spice rack to the wall close to the stove.
22) We mounted 2 more towel hooks in the bathroom. There is one close to the shower which is a bit of a shallow hook and nothing seems to stay on it while traveling.
23) We mounted a toothbrush holder under the bathroom medicine cabinet.
24) We put pillows on the dinette so we can sit lengthwise if we want to relax some.
25) We added a thick carpet under the dinette for those cold days.
26) We added floor mats in the Sprinter chassis. Nope, they did not come with any.
27) We removed the holders for the cab over bunk ladder and put 2 coat hooks in their place.
28) We added a few hooks under the kitchen sink for a small broom and dust pan and fly swatter. We have a swiffer with a collapsible handle for mopping the floors which we store under the dinette seats. We have yet to decide if we want to use space and weight for some kind of cordless vacuum. Too soon to tell.
29) We added a door handle to the inside of the screen door on the screen door slider. Without the handle you have to open the slider, go inside, grab the opening of the slider to shut the screen door, and then close the screen door slider every time you go in. A nuisance! Now you just open the screen door, go inside, and grab the newly installed handle to shut the screen door.
30) We had to purchase leveling blocks. Yes, we are back to the days of having to do a manual leveling. Maybe hydraulic jacks are in our future?
31) We added a DVD Player which accepts USB input from an external hard drive with videos and/or music. The 32″ Insignia TV which comes with the View only allows USB input with JPEG format photos. Our DISH Receiver mounted in the rig only allows USB input for a DVR drive. The Jensen entertainment system (in the coach) provides a radio, DVD player, and a USB input but we tried multiple devices (USB stick, USB external hard drive 1 TB, USB external hard drive 5 TB) with the following formats (jpeg, jpg, mkv, mp4, mp3) and the TV would never recognize them. Maybe we are just too stupid to figure it out but we had a DVD player in the house with a USB input which allows us to plug in a USB device and the TV can recognize the video/music/photos with no problem.
32) We added an outlet near the entry door under the radio on the kitchen counter waterfall area.
33) We modified the slide to allow opening and closing without the engine on.
34) We added an additional outlet by the bed which provides 12 volt and USB running on DC so we don’t have to have the inverter on. The 2 existing Winnebago outlets only function with the inverter on.
This is probably just the start of our upgrades and modifications. It is a learning process and requires more time traveling in it and living in it to determine what needs to be done or not done and to determine if we even like the rig or not. It takes time to get used to downsizing and having a different rig. We drove the other rig for over 8 years so we are now going through an adjustment period.
Stay tuned for our next shakedown trip with dry camping.