After making our maiden voyage and a dozen camping trips, we decided that we needed a few more items to make our Teardrop complete.
Shock Absorbers No true off-road rig is complete until it has a good set of gas shocks. Monroe makes a special RV gas shock [#555002 $25.19 ea] and retrofit kit [part #RB514 $48.99] for trailers. They can be purchased from any RV dealer or parts store using the Stagparkway catalog. Their kit came with all the special mounting hardware we needed plus complete instructions for mounting to a square tube frame. Monroe also makes kits for angle & channel frames. Everything was bolt together except for drilling one 1/2" hole through the frame. I spoke with Monroe tech department and asked if I could install the shock on the shackle side of the axle and they said sure. There's more axle-spring movement on that side. Before I drilled the hole, I made sure the shock wouldn't over extend itself or bottom out in that location. I installed a new set of 'U' bolts and used the original plate under the Monroe U bolt plate so it wouldn't bend while torquing. The old spring bolts did show wear after approximately 4000 miles even though grease was applied during assembly. We purchased replacement spring bolts that are hollow with a zerk grease fitting on the head. The bolts cost $3.50 each and everything was purchase from Hemet Trailer Supply. These grease bolts can be purchased online from Champion Trailer. Installation was a snap and our Teardrop handles fantastic now, even on pavement. We also installed Red Eye Bearing Protectors in place of our hub caps to keep our wheel bearings lubed at all times [part #129001-B959 Northern $14.99pr].
12v Swamp Cooler After seeing 2 Teardrop trailers using GI surplus ammo cans as 110v swamp coolers, we thought it would be a good idea to make a 12 volt version for our remote desert camping. Using 1/2" plywood & other materials left over from our body construction, we designed it to fit under our kitchen counter top, inside the lower cabinet. The exterior is laminated with Filon and interior coated with West Marine epoxy. We picked up a 4" louvered plastic RV vent from Hemet Trailer for $4.95 and mounted it on the kitchen bulkhead. The box dimensions is 19"W x 14"H x 7"D and each side of the box has a 5"H x 14"W pad to evaporate the water. We used a 12v Attwood marine bilge pump, model V500 from Napa Auto Parts for $15.00, draws 1.4 amps. The 4 1/2", 108 CFM 12v square axial fan is available from Grainger for $32.00, draws .57 amps. These type fans can also be purchased through McMaster-Carr. The 3 speed fan switch was purchased online from Swampy, the outfit that makes 12v swamp coolers and the switch cost $16.00. I'll fill the 2 1/2 gallons of water using a hose attached to our faucet and run it inside the marine drain plug I installed next to the fan switch. I made the pad mounting frame out of aluminum angle & strap from True Value Hardware. A 3/8" automotive inline fuel filter was installed to keep the feed line holes from clogging. 1/16" holes were drilled every 1/2" in the distribution tubes, which are made out of 3/8" ID plastic hose. The 6" x 16" grills came from Home Depot with the louvers facing up so no water will splash out. Total amp draw is 1.97 amps when the fan is on high speed, 1.2 amps on low which will be the setting we'll use the most. Our little cooler will draw less power than the light bulb inside our porch light! The Swampy draws 14.9 amps! Ours has 50% more pad surface than the Swampy and holds 1 gallon less water. The ambient climate must be 50% or less humidity for swamp coolers to work properly. No problem in southwestern USA.
Mattress We found a high quality futon mattress at House 2 Home, which is the old owners of Home Base hardware stores. Both are now out of business. This full size futon has a inner spring frame and is very firm, yet a soft outer layer and 8" thick. We felt that the $149.00 price tag was well worth it. We installed a 12v electric heating pad with dual controls which we purchased online from Patented Products Inc for $86.00. It draws only 8 amps with both sides turned on. It lays between the mattress and fitted sheet which will allow us to preheat our bedding on those chilly nights. We purchased a 12v ceramic heater with fan from Northern Tools for $79.00 on sale. It's made by Road Worthy and draws 25 amps and puts out 1100 BTU's. It may seem like a large draw on the battery but we'll only run it for 5 minutes or until the interior is warm. The vent at the foot of the bed in the bulkhead is where the swamp cooler blows through. When not in use, we run the bed warmer plugs through the vent to plug into the electrical box.
Power Supply One of the biggest mistakes RVer's make is purchasing the wrong battery, usually a "starting" or standard "marine" type. We should be using a "deep cycle" battery because of the constant draw and we run it almost dead. Deep cycles are used where discharging and charging occurs frequently and will last longer than a starting battery under the same conditions. We are not interested in "cold cranking amps" or other "starting" ratings. All battery manufacturers use different specs and temperature extremes to rate their products, which is a sales gimmick. It pays off to research before you buy a battery because they are not created equal. I was interested in the Optima brand until a friend who owns a automotive parts store told me about the Interstate brand, which owns Optima. Instead of the spiral wound plates (Optima has the patent), the Interstate deep cycle gel model #DCS-75BT has flat plates and has a higher rating over the Optima, which is 75 amp hours for a group 24 (Optima is 55) and $50 cheaper. This battery is designed for wheelchairs, scooters, solar panels, marine/RV, etc and can withstand vibrations. The Interstate weighs 54 pounds over the Optima's 44 pounds, more lead equals more reserve power. Instead of purchasing $500 in bulky solar panels and spending most of the day pointing them towards the sun, I decided to charge the Teardrop's battery off the tow vehicle's alternator. I ran a 10 gauge wire off the positive post of the Blazer's battery to a 40 amp circuit breaker then to a RV constant use type isolating solenoid (Standard #SS-597, $12.00) which can be purchased at any auto parts store. This solenoid is energized from a red back lit toggle switch on the dashboard that is tied into the ignition circuit, just in case I forget to turn it off. The alternator will charge the Teardrop's battery as we drive around exploring or looking for a new campsite. I ran the 10 gauge wire along the chassis wrapped inside a insulating sleeve and to a special 2 prong quick connect plug (Napa # 755-1089 $29.95 pr). This 50 amp, super heavy duty plug is used for electric forklifts, jumper cables, winches, etc. The 10 gauge wires were soldered to the plug's large silver coated copper contact pins. Since we take advantage of the Teardrop's portability, we usually change campsites daily and explore new locations. This will give us the opportunity to charge up the battery. We can run our 12v swamp cooler up to 24 hours, bed warmer 8 hours or ceramic heater for 2 hours max. Daily we'll only be running the swamp cooler for 2 hours, bed warmer for 1 hour or heater for 10 minutes, at any one given time. We have plenty of reserve power to run other accessories, including Diane's 12v hair drier!
Now we're truly "self-contained" and set for year round camping in all weather conditions. Now the time has come to see if it holds together! Visit the page showing our off-road maiden voyage for a real shake down test or visit our pages showing our on going adventures in Outback Tear Trips.