While I love my Aliner, there were many things I wanted to fix or install to make it a little more pleasant and comfortable.
This document is not intended to replace the manufacturer's documentation, nor does it necessarily describe the best or only way to install any device or modifications. This document simply describes what the author did to solve his problems. If you attempt anything described on these pages or this website, you do so entirely at your own risk. The reader is advised to read and follow all safety and installation manuals as recommended by the manufacturer.
I'm an Extra Class amateur radio operator and I like to operate mobile from my Aliner. I installed an inexpensive Hustler antenna system for the HF bands. The system works fine and I can also use it to receive regular AM and FM broadcast stations with a big improvement over built-in antennas.
Here's the installation. The picture here doesn't include the resonator that goes on the top of the mast. There is a separate resonator for each amateur radio band.
Here's a close up of the ball mount, spring, and mast. The spring is already rusting after only 6 months, but it has a copper braided center conductor to prevent detuning. It works fine and I've had zero problems. Even so, next time, I'll go with all stainless steel parts.
Parts used here: Hustler MO-2 stainless steel mast, Hustler C-32 chrome plated ball mount, Hustler C-30 chrome plated 4" spring, 15 feet of RG-59, and an SO-239. All parts can be purchased from Amateur Electronic Supply AESHAM.
The first thing I added, after owning the Aliner for two weeks, was a device that would allow me to accurately monitor the state of charge on my Aliner battery supply. I knew that if I just tried to guess the charge, I'd probably worry about how long we left the lights on at night, how much I could run the furnace, or whether it was ok to run the Fantastic Fan all night. I installed a Link 10 battery monitor. It measures the charge into and out of the battery by measuring the voltage drop across an accurate 500 amp shunt.
The Link 10 is relatively easy to install. It required the drilling of a hole, running the wiring, and installing the 500 amp shunt inline on the negative side of the battery.
I realize the Link 10 is overkill, but I appreciate having the ability to manage our power usage to maximize our "off the grid" time while not having to worry about having enough charge to run the furnace in the morning. Besides, I like gadgets and this may be the ultimate gadget for an Aliner. I've also learned a few things about batteries and chargers and converters. The converter that came with my Aliner is a very poor battery charger. I've never been able to take more then about 25 amps out of the Group 27 (105 amp-hours) battery before it was completely discharged. If I hadn't had the Link 10, I would never have realized that I had a problem. I now charge the battery with a separate battery charger. Now I can draw 50 amps out of the battery and still have the recommended 50% capacity remaining.
The first step in installing the Link 10 is to figure out where you are going to locate the circular hole for the meter. I wanted the meter to face away from the bed. I prefer it dark when I sleep and I did not want the meter LED's shining on me at night. I also didn't want to have to look under bed to read the meter. I decided to mount the meter on the front of the main sink cabinet. There is a good spot just under the left side of the sink where the meter depth doesn't interfere with the sink and there is enough space to run the wiring.
I used an awl and punched a hole from the front of the cabinet face so I could make sure to align the meter with the other accessories that Aliner had installed on the front of the cabinet. The cabinet has wood framing on the back side and I wanted to make sure the meter was centered properly within the framing and that I wouldn't have problems by having the meter mount either too close to the sink or have the wooden framing interfere, so I checked this many times before finally using the awl. In the picture, you can see the black body of the meter back between the sink bottom (at top) and the top of the furnace (at bottom).
The next step is to install the 500 amp shunt. I decided to install the shunt right next to the battery. I simply spliced the shunt into the existing wire running from the battery. In the picture to the right, you can see the shunt mounted to the left of the wheel well. If you look closely, you can see the top left hand corner of the white vented battery case.
This picture shows a close-up of the shunt. I thought the manufacturer's cable was overpriced, so I made my own. The cable needs to have one of the pairs twisted so I used a drill to wind two wires together and then tie wrapped the whole bundle, put tags on each wire to eliminate hookup mistakes, and ran the cable. Don't forget to run wires for meter power.
Here you see the Link 10 in operation. It's in the Amp-Hours mode. This shows amps into or out of the battery. The meter says that -7.0 amps have been pulled from the battery since the last full charge. I have a 110 Amp-Hour battery, so I know I have approximately 103 amp-hours left before complete discharge, however, to insure long battery life, manufacturers generally recommend that you don't make a habit of discharging your battery to less then 50% of capacity.
I recommend reading the Batteries and Chargers FAQ from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun, Inc. Understanding the care of feeding and maintaining your battery will help you receive maximum benefit from your Aliner power system.
Another little problem I wanted to solve was to decrease the on and off cycling of the water pump under flow. The water pump vibrates considerably and can be quite loud, especially when you are getting a late night drink of water. I installed a SHURflo Accumulator Tank Model 181. The tank has reduced the almost constant cycling of the pump to about 1 cycle every 7-10 seconds under full volume flow. If you are just getting a drink of water, the pump might not come on at all. I'm very pleased with the results.
I thought about mounting the tank under the sink but really wasn't looking forward to trying to install it in the limited space you have under the sink. I think I found the perfect spot right next to the hot water heater in my Aliner. I have plenty of room between the hot water tank and the cabinet framing. I also wanted to mount the tank with the water inlet and outlet in the down position so I could not need to do anything special to drain water from the tank.
In the position shown in the picture at right, the accumulator tank is drained when I drain the water heater. Since the accumulator tank is mounted on the bottom hot water drain, I needed to use a union. I suppose I could have pulled the tank from the trailer, but that seemed like a lot of work. The only parts I had to buy were an end cap, a tee, and a union. I also used Teflon tape on all of the threads. If you look closely at the picture at right, you can see the chrome plated air valve at the top. I pressured my tank at 40 PSI.
The fan in my Aliner LXE is loud. So loud that it is impossible to ignore. This became another "must fix" item on my list.
The fan was originally mounted directly to the frame using a couple of brackets. This transferred vibration and noise directly to the frame. I tried a lot of different ideas involving rubber washers but I could not make any real difference in the noise level. Finally, I just decided to replace the brackets with some eye-bolts and copper wire and I wired the fan in place. Don't forget to tie the fan back a bit or it will rest against the removable plastic panel and it will still be fairly noisy.
This made a significant change in the noise level, but it was still too loud. I decided I needed some kind of speed control.
The first thing I tried was is a variable duty cycle circuit that would pulse the DC on and off. This circuit is very power efficient and is useful for many things. In particular, I use it to control a dew heater for my telescope. I thought this would work just fine for controlling the speed of the frig fan. The circuit did a great job of fan speed control, but it also made the fan buzz loudly and this turned out to be worse then the original problem. Then I decided that I could just use some kind of simple series resistance components and a rotary switch. It's not as power efficient, but it wouldn't make the fan buzz. I suppose you could use power resisters instead of diodes, but they were more expensive and bulky. Standard silicon diodes have a .7 volt drop and you can find them cheap. By wiring diodes in series you can add the voltage drop together and get just about any total voltage drop you need (within reason). Radio Shack sells a variety pack of 25 diodes for less then $3. They may still sell the rotary switch. I tried their online catalog but couldn't find it. I picked mine up at one of their stores.
Here you can see the fan speed control just to the right of the fan switch. I simply installed the speed control by splicing into the fan switch wiring. You need to be sure and wire it in with the correct polarity. Nothing bad will happen if you get it reversed but the fan won't work because reverse biased diodes look like an open circuit. I made the black faceplate using a piece of aluminum sheeting, a file and black paint.
By wiring the diodes in series with the anode of one diode and the cathode of the next diode soldered to one pin on a single pole 12 position rotary switch, you have a variable speed DC fan control. I used 10 diodes (type 1N4001 rated for 50V and 1A) and shorted one position with wire. I experimented and determined that 10 diodes (0.7V/diode x 10 = 7 volts drop total) is about the maximum I could use. Any more and the fan will stop with a small drop in battery voltage. My fan draws about .8 amps at full speed (no diodes in line) and .3 amps (10 diodes in line) at the lowest speed. Some of the diodes will get hot to the touch but should be within specifications.
Here, you can see the back of the rotary switch. The diodes are wired in series. The switch works like a tap. It's a little hard to see but the red wire on the left side (negative) of the switch is soldered to the common pole. The other red wire (positive) near the right, is solder to the end of the series of diodes. There is one space left over and I have shorted that with a piece of wire since I could only use 10 diodes.
The speed control has been working continuously for the last 4 months. I can just hear the fan when it is on low but it is certainly quiet enough.
The 25 Rectifier Diodes pack should have a mix of 1n4001, 1n4002, 1n4004, etc diodes. I used just the 1n4001 diodes, but it doesn't really matter. The lowest rated diodes have a Peak Inverse Voltage (PIV) limit of 50 volts, which is more then enough.
RadioShack may not sell the RS# 275-1385 anymore, in which case, I might use RS# 275-1386 (2-pole, 6 position rotary switch) and simply solder two diodes together, anode to cathode, and solder this to the switch pins. This will only use half the switch, but who really needs 11 different speeds for a refrigerator fan! In fact, I could have used a 3 position rocker switch, soldered 5 diodes together in two sets and had "high", "medium", and "low" fan speeds. I used the 12 position rotary switch because I already had one.
I need to be clear about something. I'm not an electronics design engineer. I know enough to be dangerous. I like to play with electronics but it's strictly a hobby. There are some design considerations involved with using the AC rated RadioShack switch in a DC circuit with an inductive load (the fan). In my opinion, this means that the switch won't last for it's rated number of "switches", but I don't change fan speeds much anyway. My point is, this worked for me. It might work for you or it might not, but you use the information entirely at your own risk.
The lack of a solid strike plate on the door frame really bothers me. I find it hard to believe that the manufacturer didn't see this as a problem area. Instead the door latch uses the thin aluminum door frame as a strike plate. This wears ridges in the door frame and isn't very strong. A good tug on the door would easily open the door and bend the frame.
The strike plate is made from 1/8 in think x 1 1/2 in wide aluminum bar. I cut the length just shy of the width of the inside exposed door frame. I used aluminum rivets and wood turners double sided tape to fasten it to the door frame. I filed the door side of the strike plate at a angle to give it a finished look and to improve the closing action. In this picture, the new strike plate is only about 6 months old but you can already see the wear.
Here you can see the door in the closed position. I used two sticky rubber bumpers to keep the back of the rivets from dinging up the aluminum door edge molding. On reflection, I think I should have installed the heads of the rivets from the outside. This would have made a flatter surface where the door edge frame meets with the door frame and reduced the dinging of the door edge molding, but the rudder bumpers work fine.
My Aliner came with a standard 30 amp heavy duty RV power cord and plug. The cord is heavy, bulky and almost impossible to shove back into the little storage compartment in the Aliner. I don't run a lot of appliances so this is over-kill for me. I can't take credit for this idea either.
Home Depot sells the male and female 125V 30A plugs for RVs. I cut the old cable, leaving about two feet on the trailer side, and attached the male plug. On the female plug, I used a 10 gauge 25 foot extension cord and just cut off the old female 20 amp female receptacle.
I can easily run the refrigerator on 120V and a small electric heater without any problems or heating of the extension cord, plus I can now use standard 15 amp household plugs at friends homes or just about anywhere there's a plug and I never worry about parking too far from the electrical service at a campground since the cord is 25 foot long.
Inside storage space is always an issue in the Aliner. You need to take advantage of every possibility. I wanted a shelf above the sink where I could hang paper towels and put things out of the reach of my daughter. I've seen several ideas for shelves on the Aliner Forum so I knew it was possible and a great idea.
I used shelf support hardware from Closet Maid sold at Fred Meyer. I looked at the metal shelving that Closet Maid sells but decided I'd rather make the shelf myself. That way, I would shape it anyway I chose and it came out lighter too. The whole assembly is very light so I don't feel the need to make any kind of support frame for when the trailer is folded down.
I drilled holes in the shelf so I could tie wrap it to the mounting brackets. With the shelf in place, I do need to remember to keep the floor area below the shelf free when I fold down the wall. I also used stainless steel hardware and rubber washers to bolt the brackets to the wall.
I have an opaque shower skylight. This way I can sit up straight when using the shower, otherwise, my head would bump against the ceiling. There are two problems with this. If there are any street lights or if the moon is out, the skylight lights up like a beacon. Some people like this, but it bothers me when I sleep. The other problem is in the winter time. You can feel the cold conducting through the plastic.
I purchased a 9' x 3' roll of Reflectix from Home Depot. This stuff looks like bubble packing material with a silver Mylar backing. I removed the molding and cut the Reflectix to fit the opening, shoved it in, and put the molding back. Really easy to do.
I can tell a big difference now when I hold my hand up next to the skylight on a cold winter night.
There is a lot of wasted space under the sink. One of these days, I want to build some nice custom drawers so I can make maximum use of the available space. In the mean time, I wanted a quick solution.
I carefully measured the door opening and available depth and height of the space. I found some bins made by Sterilite at Fred Meyer. I took a ruler with me to measure the bins. I hesitate to give dimensions since styles change constantly. I recommend using a ruler and measuring the bins yourself to see if they will fit. As it was, it took quite a bit of maneuvering to get all three bins in the space.
I had to attach two runners to the bottom of the bottom bin so the drawer would be high enough to clear the door frame lip. Don't forget to allow for this extra height as I did.
I hate running out of water and I hate having to rearrange the bed every time I wanted to check the water level in the water tank. When I run my tank out of water, air gets in the line, which requires that I waste water to purge the lines.
I had looked at a number of gauges but they all required that I drill one or more holes in the tank and they all had moving parts. I'm not a big fan of moving parts in a water tank. They either corrode, break, or gum up. Someone on the Aliner Forum mentioned a level gauge from Snake River. This gauge measures your water level by measuring changes in capacitance as the water level moves up and down, so there are no moving parts and no holes to drill. As a matter of fact, you could probably use this to measure the level of many different fluids stored in non-metal tanks and not just drinking water.
The interface is pretty simple. When you press the single button, it displays the water level using diodes.
Here you can see the sensors and the sensor module. The kit had a roll of heavy gauge aluminum foil tape. I cut the tape to length and installed it on the tank's left-back side (assuming you are looking toward the rear of the trailer).
The instructions tell you to mount the sensor so many inches away from metal (my tank has a metal band holding it down) and so many inches away from the corner. There isn't a lot of room around the tank and I really didn't want to remove the tank from the trailer just to install the tape. As you can see, I've placed the sensors next to the corner of the tank and very close to the metal band (you can see it on the far right in the picture. This has worked fine and hasn't caused any accuracy problems that I can determine.
The gauge works great. It sure is nice to just walk in the trailer and push a button and immediately know if I need to add water.
I often camp in places without facilities, including water and electricity. Refilling the water tank has been a real problem. I tried using small battery powered pumps. One of the easiest to use pumps is sold by Coleman for taking a shower. It uses D cells and and transfers a 5 gallon container in about 3 minutes. This was still too complicated for me when all I wanted to do was pour a 5 gallon water container into the Aliner water tank. I wish I could remember who suggested this idea.
I used a bandsaw to remove the top edge of the funnel. I used a heatgun to soften all the cut edges on the funnel and to gently bend an upward curve in the funnel.
Finally, I used the heatgun to gently soften the end of the funnel and by jamming the funnel into the Aliner water inlet, I was able to get a snug fit so I don't have to hold the funnel while I pour. It may not look pretty, but it works great. It's easy to keep clean and store and I don't have to worry about hoses freezing in the winter time.