Tag Archives: Clever changes

Painted Handles

On our way back from the South Island last year, we stopped over in Taupo  for a few days to catch up with friends Gary and Dianne. Staying with them as well were other friends Ian and Lynda in their Dethleffs XLI.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

Rafe in Taupo next to Ian and Linda’s XLI

One of the common issues that we had with Ian and Lynda and our Dethleffs Motorhomes was the state of the plastic outside door handles for the Garage, the Gas Locker and vents for the heater and oven.

Rafe on the ferry showing all the faded hatch handles.

They were originally white but had faded with the UV light and gone a dirty yellow/creamy colour which didn’t look too flash. I’m sure this applies to many other Motorhomes and Caravans with NZ’s harsh UV light too so this might be something many of you can do to your own Motorhomes to solve this problem…. read on!!

Ian found a way to take off and strip down the door catches and with special plastic paint with primer, painted them white which looked amazing. Ian even made a spray booth out of a cardboard box so the overspray didn’t end up all over Gary’s Garage 🙂

Rafe’s handles were looking really scruffy so after talking to both Ian and Gary, I took the handles and the vent covers off. After stripping down the handles and masking the key locks, I cleaned all the bits with Sugar Soap and the sprayed them with Plastic Primer.

Click on the Gallery below to see the process in a Slideshow

The Primer only takes 30 minutes before you can top coat it so it was time to make a cardboard box spraybooth 🙂

The Oven vent and the Truma heater vent covers on

Rafe’s habitation door handles and front Fiat door handles are all black so Satin Black was the colour.

Two hours and several coats later, I reassembled the locks and stuck everything back on Rafe and it looks fantastic.

Looking the part

All thanks to Ian for his great idea and some tips from Gary too!

Weights and Tyres

At the recent NZMCA Motorhome show at Mystery Creek, I caught up with Phil from Carters Tyres.   After 59000 k’s, Rafes tyres were down to 2mm and I needed to replace them before my next COF so I was keen to find out the ins and outs of tyres.

Click on any Image for Hi Res

Phil from Carters

One of the things I wasn’t aware of that Phil highlighted was that many Motorhomers and Caravanners weren’t really aware of the weight limits on the tyres themselves. While we are all very aware of GVM’s and Axle weights, as that is what you get fined for if you get them wrong, many of us overlook the per wheel weights on our tyres.

Checking the rear wheels

As Carters were weighing vehicles the next morning, I moved to where the scales were and Rafe was weighed.

The scales

Both the back wheels were 1100kg’s or within a few kg’s either side (without the bikes) and the front wheels were 970kg and 1020kgs.  The Michelin Agilis tyres that I had on have a weight limit of 1250kgs per tyre so no worries there.

While I was pleased with the Michelins and how they had worn, they were expensive to replace with prices from nearly $1800 – $2000 for four, depending on who you got at the counter 🙂

The Michelin Agelis after 59000k’s

Phil was telling me that the Giti company produced a truck tyre with specs similar to the Michelin for almost half the price.. the GT Radial. It has a per tyre limit of 1460kgs, has more belts in the tread to help it track really well and 10 ply on the sides which is plenty. Yippee!!

The new Gt radials

So I booked into Carters in Highbrook in Auckland and Patrick was the man weilding the tools to change my tyres.

Patrick putting one of the new tyres on

I couldn’t get over the technology now used to change tyres. I remember when I was 17 years old odd, I worked in a service station in between photographic jobs and for a while was in the tyre bay.  I remember a steel pole concreted in the ground with a circular seat half way up that held the tyre while you wrestled with a long steel pole to lever off the tyre. Lots of fun ! These days, its all pneumatics.

A Tyre Changer of days gone by 🙂

Back to Rafes new tyres.. Each wheel was balanced and filled up with Nitrogen and refitted to Rafe.

Click on the gallery below for a Slideshow

Patrick did a great job on the tyres and driving home felt very different. You could really feel the extra rubber and it seemed to track better at speed on the motorway too. They also seem quieter on the road as well.

Rafe in the Tyre Bay

They’re definitely the place to get your tyres and NZMCA members get a really good discount too!

A night in a VW

The iconic shape of the VW Combi and the bright colours were hard to miss.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

Tania with the VW’s

The happy voice of Bowentown Holiday Park, Tania  was only to pleased to show me through the amazing Combi cabins. With the bright Green and Orange exterior paintjob they almost glow in the dark!

What can you say !

They’re about 4 years old and were originally made in Auckland and are fully insulated, complete with heating and set up very comfortably.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

New owners of the Park, Mike and Bec are planning to plant some gardens around them and restore the colours to that of the original VW’s.

For those who want to stay with Motorhome or Caravan friends, this is the next best thing and in the off season, they’re just $85 a night.

A great sight to see and a fun way to spend the weekend away!

David’s Treasure Trove

Rafe is nearly 4 years old and it seems everything is expiring. One of those items is the Electrical Certificate and that was due to expire next month but while I’m doing inspections, oil changes and stuff, I thought I’d get on with it.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

Sunbeam

After making a time with David Allbon who was listed on the NZMCA website, I rocked up to his house in Glenfield with Rafe and David put Rafe through his electrical paces. I was impressed with how thorough it was. He tested all the 240v power points and devices and checked the RCD tripped off in the allotted times allowed. The lead was checked too. We passed with flying colours.

David with a new bike he is working on.

David then led me to do the paperwork on his desk in his garage which just happened to be the boot lid of his Triumph Stag. His Garage was amazing. There was a 1929 Sunbeam, a 1926 Douglas Motorbike, a lovely convertible MG which was covered in his Motorhome bits. He is also working on another lovely old bike which I forgot to ask what it was but a real treasure trove.

The MG

David was telling me that most of the cars he has owned for a “long time” which suggested 40 years or more in some cases.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

Looking at the Sunbeam engine bay with its 6 cylinder, 2 litre motor, you could eat your lunch off it ! Its lovely to see these old vehicles being looked after and loved to this level.

The 6 cylinder 2 litre Sunbeam motor

David and his wife Barbara also have a Nissan Motorhome which was away having some repairs done to it after it was damaged by a falling tree.

If you’re looking for an Electrical Certificate, David is your man..!

Pop up Caravan

And it was  2 C overnight !

Click on an image for Hi Res

Anne and Dave

Dave and Anne were away for their first adventure in their new Jayco Eagle pop up Caravan and were my neighbours at Whangateau.

Jayco Eagle

Having a quick look through, its amazing how much room there is inside them and what you can fit in. They slept in one end and had their luggage at the other end with plenty of room for living space in between.

Dining area

I’ve always wondered how cold you would be in these in a really cold night but in the morning they both said they were as warm as toast so the inuslation in them must really work.

Galley

Apparently it tows beautifully and although it took him about an hour to put together for the first time today, it generally should only take 15-20 minutes once you’ve done it a few times and you get more familiar with it.

Master Bed area

From Kaiwaka, they were staying here in the lovely Whangateau Holiday Park for three or four days to try everything out with their friends.

Dave was telling me that they bought it from a retired School Principal three months ago, who is clever with his hands, and along with lots of other little modifications he added a stay and pulley system so that the Pop Up Top wouldn’t sway around in the wind.. a great add on.

The Stays to stop it wobbling in the wind

Having had a Motorhome before, they were happy to return to the more basic camping setup and were having fun.

Visitors Berth

Although they said it wasn’t an issue, I still wondered about the 2C overnight 🙂

Nothing more Frustrating

Than house batteries that won’t play the game !

After 4 years of service, one of Rafe’s house batteries finally popped its clogs and a visit to the battery hospital was in order.

These images are all done from a cell phone.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

The original batteries

Batterytown came highly recommended by my son Andrew after he’d just upgraded our old boat Rorqual’s, new house batteries. He’d gone from 220 Amp hours to 450 odd something Amp Hours.. huge! .. plus he’d moved from lead acid to AGM’s too.

I’d been reading in some of the overseas forums that some of the British Fiat Motorhome owners had a few issues with the batteries that came fitted with some of the Fiat based motorhomes of the same age as Rafe. And sure enough, I had the same brand as well. Although to be fair, I always thought 4 years was about as much as you could expect from a bunch of house batteries.

They’re not easy to get at in the Globe 4 as they’re under the drivers seat but its only a 10 minute job getting the seat out. If you’re doing it yourself as I did, be careful when you pull the seat out that you carefully disconnect the air bag and seatbelt sensor cables when you lift the seat off the pillar! Its all in one big Yellow plug tucked down the side of the seat.

On a Dethleffs too.. Make sure that you disconnect the Solar Array by pulling the fuse out BEFORE you disconnect the old batteries or you’ll fry the control panel (Expensive!)

Only one of my batteries had died but you can’t put a new battery alongside an old one as the old one will kill off the new one in double quick time.

Top down of the new Batteries Handbrake lever on the right

The brand that came recommended in the UK was the German brand Varta and they were getting a much better run out of them than anything else. This also was the brand that Batterytown recommended as well so I was pleased about that.

Apparently they have some new technology silicone on the plates which stops the sulphation on them which stops them performing. This apparently gives them a lot longer service life and effectively increases their badged Amp Hour capacity to some degree as well.

It could be marketing stuff but it all sounds good and if its working for the Brits, it must be ok.

Greg load testing them.. passed with flying colours

So after fitting them I was off to get them tested,  just to give me peace of mind. I have in the past fitted brand new house batteries on Rorqual and found a couple over the years with dead cells straight out of the plastic wrapping !

After the load test.. from 10v up to 12.6 in a blink!

So all good.. we’re off now for another 5 or more years hopefully with some new Varta batteries.

The new Batteries all ready to go

They’re also a nice white colour too.

Faster, shiny Wifi !!

Just recently, the good folk at Netspeed showed me a new secret weapon for my Wifi.  A new router and its FAST!

Neat, something new

The big differences apart from it having some new shiny hidden bits that bring in a stronger signal and better management of the aerials, is that the new router is 2.4ghz and 5 ghz and also Wifi AC. The old router is Wifi N and 2.4 ghz only.

What does all this mean I hear you ask. Even as an ex ISP manager myself, I had to look it up to find out and this is what I found.

Once you have setup the router which you can do by just turning it on, its that simple. The router will send two signals for your phone or ipad,  the 2.4 or the 5ghz. Its your choice which one you use.

New Router

The 2.4ghz is slower but can reach further but is susceptible to interference from some other devices as it works on a crowded frequency. This is what most of us use now and is probably good for using outside and around your Motorhome.

The old Router with the new.

The 5 ghz is much faster as its a higher frequency but doesn’t do distance but within your motorhome, you won’t have a problem. It is FAST believe me!

The old and new back on

The other Major difference…. 
The Wifi AC is nice and shiny and new and as one techy told me, it is the difference between a Ferrari and a sedan. It has a lot more speed, supports a lot more people on the same router and does what is known as beamforming. As I understand it, this means it finds out where you are and strengthens the signal is your direction. Sounds a wee bit spooky 🙂

The speed improvements are something else.
Here’s what I got in our driveway in Devonport.

With the old modem..
Download: 41.77 Mbps
Upload: 33.28 Mbps
Ping: 51 ms

With the new one in the same location, the same day.
Download: 94.6 Mbps
Upload: 29.6 Mbps
Ping: 41 ms

While I did the speedtest, as the dial only goes up to 60mbs, I was waiting for the guage to snap 🙂

The new Router in place

Its fast. If you want one of these new shiny things and turbo charge your Netspeed connection, get in touch with the friendly crew at Netspeed.

A Park for Rafe

One of the things we all have to do as Motorhomers or caravanners is to find somewhere to park our vehicles when theyre not in use. Not always an easy thing to do when they’re of larger proportions !Now that we’re back in our house for a wee while getting ready for our next adventure, I recently came across some old images of the parking area we developed for Rafe which I thought might give some of you some ideas.

Before with wee Rafe

Initially when we first got Rafe, we still had wee Rafe the caravan as although we had sold it and it had been paid for, it was waiting on transport to the its new home in Central Otago.

Cutting down the Oak

To make Rafe’s parking spot, we had to bowl a rather large Pin Oak tree and a couple of other insignificant shrubs but the hole created for Rafe was perfect. We were a bit lucky that the back half of the area was alreadyset up with concrete pavers.

Clearing the Green things

After the first few months, we found that the ground was getting a bit mushy and needed to be fortified with some fairly coarse gravel to stop Rafe from sinking in the front.

Sawdust and Mush

The other change we made was rebuilding a partly rotten fence and hanging it on hinges so it could fold out of the way to make it easy to back in.

Before the gate and Gravel

We also added in a 16 amp plug on an RCD circuit for getting the fridge down and keeping the batteries topped up.

All done
All Done
Rafe’s park complete with 16 amp power

Although is wasn’t hugely expensive, the cost was a few bits of wood for the fence, some hinges, the tree felling and the wiring and RCD. But well worth it to get Rafe off the street!

Its amazing how many people have asked me how I get Rafe in there too 🙂

Be kind to Your Fridge

One of the issues with the influx of a lot of European Motorhomes has been that many of them don’t have “Tropical” Fridges but instead have a Dometic fridge setup for Europe which it is generally expected to work in much cooler conditions than here in NZ.

Click on the images to see Hi Res

The Kit on the floor

An easy way to sort this out is to install a Fridge Cooling Kit which Dometic supply for approximately $110 depending on where you get it from.  This helps to get rid of any build up of heat in the cavity behind the fridge to help with  it’s efficiency, especially when it is sitting in a campground.

Before I go any further.. although this kit is relatively easy to install yourself, I found that it involved putting screws into the back of the fridge in an area I wasn’t comfortable with so if you have any doubts, get someone like Vantage RV to install it.

Make sure you fix the Fan the right way up

Rafe was booked in to Vantage RV for a week for a whole lot of maintenance as we have been living in it fulltime and had to defer several things that needed to be done. While it was there, it made sense to get a Fridge Cooling kit installed despite the fact that my fridge has never really had any issues. It all helps as they say 🙂

Click on the Gallery to see a slideshow

Johan was given the short straw to do the job…Once the 3.5 years off dust was blown out of the back of the fridge, he screwed on the fan unit and then clipped on the Thermostat. Next came the wiring. The cover came off and there were two terminals there waiting for the wires to clip on to.

All done.. nice and tidy.

It was all very straight forward but not a job that I’d want to take it on myself and the whole job was done very quickly but then Johan has done heaps of these and made it look very easy.

We tested it by turning the fridge on and directing a heat gun on the thermostat and off it went. I was amazed by how quiet it was.

Now to load up the fridge and give it a real test!

There is more information on this see Robs Fan and Mikes Fridge

A Tune Up for Rafe’s Dome and Some Smart New Technology!

I had to pop in to Apollo TV to get my now nearly 4 year old Apollo dome serviced as I was having trouble getting some of the channels. Chris was very happy to sort it all out for me!

Click on an Image for Hi Res

All is revealed.. looking good

Ever since Prime moved, it has been really difficult to get and TV1 and TV2 suffered badly from rain fade where TV3 didn’t!

Chris checking over the Dome

After talking to both Chris and Duncan, I made and appointment and off I went to their office in Whnagaparoa. Nice guys that were only too happy to help me with the dome. It also turns out that my Dome cover has just about done its dash so there is a new one coming. $399 fitted. They get hammered by our high UV and get cracks in them. Mine has cracks around the screw holes on the edge so is all good for a wee while.

Chris got the ladder out and within 10 minutes or so, had it reset and pointing correctly at the Satellite fixing all the problems. Apparently my dome has a GPS in it to it knows where it is in the world and sets itself and the skew based on position and the signal strength as well.
Chris was telling me that when they first starting bringing in the Domes, they realised that the Dome Cover was much bigger than the Dish so they had the Dish made as large as they could and still fit under the Cover giving us TV watchers more signal!

I couldn’t get over the friendly customer service and speed at which they dealt with my wee problem.

The sample straight out of the Box

While talking to Chris, he was telling me about the new Avtex Sound Bar which fits on the bottom of the Avtex 19” TV and vastly improves its sound while only drawing .75A and they’re only $375 retail.

Chris with the first Sound Bar

Duncan set one up for me to have a listen and the sound is stunning. The power and sound is all sourced directly from the TV where they mount underneath. All very easy and tidy. They can also be used as a remote Bluetooth speaker for your cell phones too.

Their first shipment is arriving shortly and is already just about completely spoken for!

The sound bar fitted to a 19″ TV

Some of the new technology in this space is amazing with so much happening.. now to just win Lotto and I’ll be very happy 🙂