Tent Trailer - Building/rebuilding and questions

Discussion in 'Trailer Tech' started by toyotaspeed90, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    When in doubt, post to mud, right?

    Wife and I were interested in a TT with a budget max of $2500 - obviously used. Probably being mid summer, prices tend to be all over the place. Mid 2000 models under $4,000 and late 90's models easily over $3,000.

    We finally settled on a 1999 Coachmen Clipper 1290 STS. It's 15' closed, has front storage, 23' open, and a slideout for the dinette. Has some water damage in the front storage and a little bit under the skylight. Weighs around 2500lbs, but can't be sure as Nada doesn't show this year as having a slideout, which it obviously does. Has trailer brakes even though the previous owner claims it doesn't - the wiring at the axles and my brake control 'stop' switch say otherwise. The '01 LX470 pulled it just fine up to 70mph even with O/D on and trans temps staying low (under 160).

    Plans are:
    Upgrade electrical system
    Install roof A/C (and build support braces, since I can't find any for this model)
    Fix the water damage
    Remove cassette toilet
    New mattresses
    New linens (drapes, etc)
    New floors
    Remove current countertops and build new from wood
    Paint cabinets (white, or light gray)
    Assume we will swap the couch/dinette cushion fabric as well

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    titanpat57 likes this.
  2. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    We removed the cassette toilet (because that's weird - hey everyone, just taking a dump right in the middle of everyone's bed).

    The next thing will be to upgrade the electrical. This isn't needed, per say, but.... what the hell.

    We had been talking with some family members who have had trailers/campers/conversion vans/motorhome regarding A/C (I wanted to know how difficult it was to add A/C) - and they came back and said they happened to have a spare rooftop A/C we could have - and then said they have 27' travel trailer we could have.

    Got the trailer, and spare A/C, home - only within a week to find out the roof was completely shot. It was also a bit bigger, especially towing-wise, than what we were after. The trailer went up for sale (very cheap) but I grabbed the electrical system my uncle had upgraded it with.

    It had a brand new Mega Duty deep cycle (sealed) battery, a new 110v breaker panel (plus shore power indicator), and the best part - a Heart Interface Freedom 10 - plus somewhere near 100' of 10/3 "recreational vehicle" wiring (fine stranded - not stiff).

    The Freedom 10 isn't made anymore as Heart Interface was bought out. It's a pretty hefty piece of equipment... it will:
    -Provide 110v/100A to the system from the 12V batteries (inverter)
    -Pull in shore power and allow it to pass through
    -When shore power is connected it will charge/float/monitor the batteries incrementally

    The 12V system in the tent trailer will get a simple Blue Seas 12 circuit ATO/ATC fuse panel with negative bus bar, and cover. It's the same unit I have in the FJ40 and it's a pretty perfect 'all in one' fuse panel if you don't need relays. With the upgraded system (and dual batteries, when complete) I'll be able to add just about any 12V system up to 30A (multiple). I believe there are currently 4 circuits in the tent trailer, which includes the charger - so 3 circuits once the Freedom 10 goes in.

    The breaker panel will go into the current electrical system location (under the sink area). The 12v fuse panel will go near the same area, tucked in somewhere.

    Now for a question - the Freedom 10 is much too large to put anywhere useful inside, plus would require way more rewiring than necessary. The plan is - spare battery and Freedom 10 in the front storage. Battery wiring is all up front. The shore power will be moved up front. This means all I need is to get a single 10/3 to the back.

    Plan is run the 10/3 under the trailer. There are pass through a in the frame and can tuck it well out of the way. Is there any reason, aside from possibly snagging it (note - all 12v wiring is run this way from the factory), not to run the 110 on the underside?

    This is what it looked like in the 27' trailer (after I went through and rewired it), though I didn't have the 12V system up and running yet. My uncle was setting it up with a Blue Seas 12V breaker panel - but I didn't like that as the 12V wasn't a "bus bar" system, and each circuit would need it's own 12V brought in.

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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
    LAMBCRUSHER likes this.
  3. cruiserpilot

    cruiserpilot

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    Holy crap!! I guess I haven't been keeping up with tent trailers. Slide outs???
    Is this an off road intended use or just standard campground stuff?
     
  4. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    Standard camping mostly. If I were to do any kind of off road it would need some suspension changes, bigger tires, and a better way to secure the slide.

    The slide is all manual but only has a couple small clips that hold it in. I would need some serious reinforcements to keep it from getting too off kilter and tweaking the slide out mechanism/tracks.
     
  5. ntsqd

    ntsqd technerd

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    Inverters are hard on batteries (large power consumption) and converters do a poor job of charging them (no multi-stage charging, set point voltage usually wrong = boils electrolyte, etc.). What do you need 120VAC for? Could you get along with only 12 VDC?

    Our camper's fridge is a compressor fridge and runs great on 12 VDC. I carry a portable 1kW inverter just in case, but have never needed to set it up. No little ones still in the nest, so that could be huge. As our power use is pretty low (all LED lights etc.) we have only 100W of solar right now. The next iteration will see that at least double, but right now it isn't needed.

    If you are thinking that you can charge the camper battery(ies) off the TR's alternator you need to measure the total circuit length ('+' length + '-' length) from battery to battery, make an estimate of your max charging amps (I used the max rating of our VSR), and then look up the cable size needed for less than 3% Voltage Drop. 10% Voltage Drop does no good in a charging circuit, it has to be 3% or less. Part 1: Choosing the Correct Wire Size for a DC Circuit - Blue Sea Systems

    My thinking is put as much battery AH capacity in it as you need, put enough solar system (panels + controller) on it to handle your normal charging needs (search for the "Handy Bob" blog on solar; warning he is repetitive and verbose but what he says works and what RV places say about solar does not work), and have a std 120 VAC battery charger available should you need to charge and have hook-ups. If the trailer is stored outside then when not covered in snow etc. the solar will keep the battery(ies) topped off and maintained.
     
    LAMBCRUSHER likes this.
  6. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    My understanding is that the Freedom 10 units, as far as chargers go, are pretty excellent - floats/monitors the battery, doesn't just feed a charge.

    As far as 120 goes, it's yet to be determined what the "need" is (other than, depending where we go in the years to go, the roof top A/C) but utilizing the equipment I already have.

    I do not want to charge the batteries off the tow vehicle.... and it also has me wondering about possible back feeding - I may look into a diode to ensure 12v is only going 1 direction through the RV plug - which is from vehicle to trailer....
     
  7. ntsqd

    ntsqd technerd

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    You won't be able to run the roof AC off of the battery, unless you roughly triple the weight of the trailer in batteries it will draw too much current for the battery to last any time worthwhile. For AC w/o hook-ups you're looking at a generator.

    If you don't hook up the 12 VDC pin on the trailer electrical connector then it won't try charge the trailer and you won't have any back-feeding. Of bigger concern is if the TR and trailer batteries are connected while parked then whatever power you use in the trailer will draw off the starting battery as well.
    A device like this one: Digital Voltage Sensing Relay (DVSR) 12/24V | BEP is a good method for connecting the two batteries while the engine is running and disconnecting them when not. More importantly it allows the starting battery to reach full charge before it connects the camper battery to the system. A simple solenoid or relay can not do this.
     
  8. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    I don't plan to run the A/C on the Freedom 10/batteries only, the A/C will have a dedicated breaker that is off unless there is shore power.

    Aside from the 2nd battery, I already had the Freedom 10, the upgraded breaker panel, a lot of flexible 10/3, and a new HD deep cycle battery.

    The tent trailer already had shore power hookups/110 circuits plus a meager, built in, battery charger. I'm simply removing the cheap, more likely to fail components and replacing with what I already have. I agree that mostly there isn't a need for the 110 systems, but if I can upgrade at almost no cost - why not.

    I have zero desire to charge the trailer batteries off of the tow vehicle.
     
  9. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    Trailer has had some work done and is now closed, for now.

    We tossed the beds - fabric and padding... it was gross, was wrapped in the original plastic (not fully sealed) and encapsulated probably everything from all those who slept on them. Ordered some 6" foam mattresses and are on the way.

    Also on the way is a 60" LED strip and controller, that I will put on the back - really only for reverse (not necessarily as a means to light the area up behind me, but to let other drivers know. If applicable) as the trailer has no reverse light. The strip also has brake, turn, and running light modes - as a bonus the whole thing was $13.

    Aside from mounting an electrical box and the 12v Blue Seas fuse panel (attempted but there wasn't enough holding power in the veneer - will attempt a heavy duty velcro) the electrical is done. I also have to drill the new plug pass through hole, just need to grab the right sized hole saw.

    First photo is what came out - shore power in, 110 out, battery charger, and 12v fuse panel all in one. Fits in a hole smaller than 7"x12".

    Second photo shows how wiring was run (only things I added were the yellow 110, the green THHN, and the two 4 ga battery cables - everything else is original). Clamped to the underside of the floor every 12-18", passed through the frame with a section of 5/8" heater hose to protect the 110 cable, zip tied to the frame to ensure vibration doesn't take place.

    Third photo shows the frame holding the 2nd battery, the freedom 10, and where the coiled wire (on the reel) fits. I built the frame for 2 reasons - one is to strengthen the floor for the concentrated adder weight and it spans the front frame rails; two is because the majority of the Freesom 10s wiring runs underneath- the 4" gives room to have enough wire coiled underneath to pull the unit up and access anything if ever needed.

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  10. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90

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    Turns out the roof is in pretty rough shape.

    I tried to, at least, start from the inside and work my way up/out..... construction of this is sill.... it's basically a plywood box with some 1x2 or 2x2 'stringers', styrofoam glued to the plywood, then "ceiling" plywood glued to the stringers and styrofoam.... it's basically a glue, foam, and plywood sandwich. In effect, pulling on the delaminated/rotted plywood from the bottom is causing the rotten stringers to start pulling down as well - IE, the roof now has a dip in it.

    Awesome.
     
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