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Old 01-01-2007, 02:38 AM   #1
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This is quite lengthy so I included 2 versions, a short one and a longer more-detailed one...


Here's the short version:
Traded old Wrangler for new Grand Caravan. Installed BlueOx baseplate, Remco lube pump and SMI Air Force One braking systems. Works great.
The End.


And here's the long version:
After many miles of faithfully following behind 3 different coaches, our trusty Jeep Wrangler started to showing major signs of aging. About a month ago, the AC went out. About the same time, the transmission throw-out bearing began to make even louder grinding noises than usual and was getting very reluctant to go into gear (even though Chrysler said it all wasn't a problem when I first pointed it to them back when it was still under warranty). Not only that, it has been getting smaller and smaller over the past year, in direct proportion to the growth of our dog. Hmmm, what to do?

Just before the Holiday season, we were at Camp Monaco (Wildwood Division) for a few days getting some things touched-up, and had an afternoon to kill. Not finding a movie-theater in the area, we decided to "just drop by a few car-dealers only to look around and kill some time". Yeah, you get the picture... we drove home that afternoon in a new 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan loaded with all the goodies (and since I'll be the principal driver, it got named the "ManVan"). Buying it was the no-brainer part, the tough part came in ˜training' the minivan to follow the coach.

When I initially did the Jeep, it was easy – just bolt a simple baseplate to the front-bumper and splice in the wire-connector. I didn't even use a braking-system since it was so light. I knew the minivan was going to be a bit more work to upgrade, but didn't really know how much more. Can you say ˜About A Week'?

We already had the BlueOx Aladdin towbar, so I bought a matching BlueOx baseplate for the new minivan. It was a simple but tedious job to remove the front bumper and plastic fascia, and then install the baseplate and the fascia/bumper. It took us (my wife and me) the better part of a complete day to do the bulk of the effort. Regular handtools, and few surprises – unless you count finding the odd metric bolt here and there (I think metrics are used wherever you'd least expect one, especially in cramped spots when you have to stop and find the right metric socket).
The new baseplate looks solid enough, and is very unobtrusive when not being used. It doesn't stick out any further than the fascia, which is a whole lot better than old plate on the Jeep, and that one was a major knee-biter because the pointy pieces were right at shin/knee height as you'd walk by it.
One snag, and it almost turned out to be a nightmare. The baseplate comes with 2 mounting posts sticking out the front for the wiring-connector plate. When I tried to screw one of the bolts into the post, the screw promptly broke off. No problem, I'll just get an Easy-Out screw-extractor, right? Uh-uh, I broke off the extractor. Ok, I'll forget that side and just go with the other hole. Nope, now I broke off the screw in THAT hole too. Grrrrr... Well, after an entire afternoon of trying to hammer out, drill out, cuss out and just plain pounding out the offending obstructions, my wife sweetly asked why not weld the connector-plate on instead.
Well, duh!!! I was so fixated on one solution I'd completely overlooked the obvious. Fortunately we found a very nice RV-service place nearby to help out, and now it all looks quite professional. By the way, the RV place said this wasn't the first time they've encountered that problem, and we decided it's because the baseplate powder-coating can snag the screw-threads. I'd suggest using a tap to carefully clean the holes and dab some anti-seize compound to the threads before you start.

The lube-pump proved to be the most challenging. Not because it was difficult, but because it was performing heart-bypass surgery to the transmission and I was worried. Turned out to be unfounded, however, because the install went smoothly.
The pump itself is mounted to the radiator-support bracket with the hoses and wiring snaked carefully down and along the driver-side of the bracket. It wasn't the optimum position to my way of thinking, since it isn't that far from the hot engine itself, but there just plain wasn't any room elsewhere to put it. Drilling into the transmission pan to mount the return-hose fitting was also an easy job, especially after I called the local dealer and was reassured they had an extra pan in stock if I made a boo-boo.
Making sure I˜d be cutting the right hose for the diverter-valve was interesting. Directions say to remove one hose and then ˜bump' the engine to see if fluid comes out the hose itself or out the tranny, which determines if that was the supply or return side. Ever notice how quickly a brand-new engine will catch and start? I'd already cautioned my wife to be ready to cut it off if it started, and that was a darn good thing. All I had to do afterwards was clean up a quart or so of transmission-fluid which was all over the floor, engine, firewall, me ...
The coach-side of the lube-pump job was also easy. Run a couple wires from the new connector at the coach-rear all the way up to the dash area, splice into some wiring and mount the display-box. I'd initially chose to put the display-box down low on the right side of the dash, but think it should be placed higher-up and more in my field of vision, so's I can see the red/yellow/green indicator-lites at a quick glance.

Turn and stop lite wiring was easy but time-consuming. Remco provided everything needed to wire both the coach and tow-vehicle, and all I needed was to add the labor. Running the multi-conductor cable from front to rear and then finding which wire did what took awhile but was simple. Because I was adding a bumper-hitch and needed to splice into the existing wiring anyways, I didn't use the separate-bulbs idea but went with using the existing wiring and bulbs method instead. Therefore, the diode splitter-box was put at the rear of the ManVan for everything to connect thru.
I never did figure out which wire(s) drove which lite(s) in the coach-side of the lite harness, so I just took the Remco-supplied 4-pin connector and stuck it in the coach 4-pin spot. Maybe someday I'll trace ˜em all out and redo it.
The coach lite-connector went on quite easily, two holes in a cross-brace and it was done. (I made REAL SURE I wasn't drilling into any part of the frame or the hitch assembly itself before I started!).
Reading the ManVan manual (gee, what a concept for me!), I learned that I can pull the HAZARD fuse to keep the panel-display from remaining on while being towed and run down the battery. Coincidently, pulling that fuse also keeps miles from being racked up, but I'm obviously going to keep track of towed/driving miles to keep the accounting systems straight.

Deciding which braking system to go with took the longest time. As you may know, all Monaco coaches built after July 2005 come pre-wired for the US Gear system, but with my typical luck I have a May-June 2005 coach. I'd have gone with them if mine was pre-wired, but now I had a more-open field to choose from. After many phone-calls to many different vendors, studying websites and the comments in the irv2 forums from other users, and simply because I like ˜trick stuff' (I'm a gadget-guy from away back) I went with the new SMI Air Force One system. Rebelsbeach and a few others in irv2 have written about their experiences too, so I won't go into too much detail about how great the SMI folks are, like being able to talk directly with the designers of the system (or for Peter, the president of the company, for that matter) when I had a question. To be honest, I was skeptical about how it is supposed to work, but all concerns turned out to be completely unfounded.
Tapping into the air-system on the coach was another heart-stopper, but went easy. All fittings were included in the kit, and no surprises were in-store. The box at the coach-rear was bolted to the same brace as the wiring connector.
Finding room for the control-box under the ManVan hood was exasperating. Can you believe there was almost NO space for a 4x6x12" box? It eventually got mounted next to the battery, but will probably get moved as I don't like the proximity to possible acids.
The breakaway-reservoir tank was almost as much hassle, even tho it was a lot smaller. It's now in front of the battery, but may get moved someday too.
The actuating-cylinder and associated hose didn't cause any problems or head-scratching, either. I even found the correct van brake-wire to tap into for the coach-mounted bulb to indicate when ManVan's brakes were being applied.

Ok, so how did it all work? Because of other commitments, everything had to sit for 2 more weeks until we could try it all, but one afternoon I did manage to squeeze the van in right behind the coach at our campsite and test things out. Darned if we weren't surprised when all the lites lit, pumps pumped, actuators actuated... and no smoke or excess fluid anywhere!
The first real test kept me on the edge of my seat for the first few miles (ok, for the next 250+ miles), and I must say I am very pleased with the outcome. I think the ManVan pulls better than the Wrangler, and the brake-system certainly makes a big difference when slowing or stopping. It's like it's not even back there anymore. Besides, the dog loves his new ˜ride'.

The End (almost).


I should add that I purposely haven't included detailed ˜instructions' since the vendors provided good manuals themselves and because your configuration or options may be a bit different, but I'd be happy to offer my experiences/suggestions if anyone is interested.
Let me also say that I'm not ˜dissing' other products or vendors that are out there, but I liked what I knew and learned about the BlueOx, Remco and SMI products and felt they had what I wanted and needed. They work superbly for me, and I'm happy.

Speaking of being happy, most of the products came from RV-Upgrades and they were wonderful folks to deal with. After the first phone-call or two, Debbie recognized my voice and we're now great friends. Fair prices, superb customer-service, everything showed-up as advertised, and was delivered when they said it would be. I highly recommend RV-Upgrades products. It don't get no better'n that no-how!

... Ok now it's ˜The End'
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Old 01-01-2007, 02:38 AM   #2
Senior Member
 
ronboc's Avatar
 
Monaco Owners Club
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,256
This is quite lengthy so I included 2 versions, a short one and a longer more-detailed one...


Here's the short version:
Traded old Wrangler for new Grand Caravan. Installed BlueOx baseplate, Remco lube pump and SMI Air Force One braking systems. Works great.
The End.


And here's the long version:
After many miles of faithfully following behind 3 different coaches, our trusty Jeep Wrangler started to showing major signs of aging. About a month ago, the AC went out. About the same time, the transmission throw-out bearing began to make even louder grinding noises than usual and was getting very reluctant to go into gear (even though Chrysler said it all wasn't a problem when I first pointed it to them back when it was still under warranty). Not only that, it has been getting smaller and smaller over the past year, in direct proportion to the growth of our dog. Hmmm, what to do?

Just before the Holiday season, we were at Camp Monaco (Wildwood Division) for a few days getting some things touched-up, and had an afternoon to kill. Not finding a movie-theater in the area, we decided to "just drop by a few car-dealers only to look around and kill some time". Yeah, you get the picture... we drove home that afternoon in a new 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan loaded with all the goodies (and since I'll be the principal driver, it got named the "ManVan"). Buying it was the no-brainer part, the tough part came in ˜training' the minivan to follow the coach.

When I initially did the Jeep, it was easy – just bolt a simple baseplate to the front-bumper and splice in the wire-connector. I didn't even use a braking-system since it was so light. I knew the minivan was going to be a bit more work to upgrade, but didn't really know how much more. Can you say ˜About A Week'?

We already had the BlueOx Aladdin towbar, so I bought a matching BlueOx baseplate for the new minivan. It was a simple but tedious job to remove the front bumper and plastic fascia, and then install the baseplate and the fascia/bumper. It took us (my wife and me) the better part of a complete day to do the bulk of the effort. Regular handtools, and few surprises – unless you count finding the odd metric bolt here and there (I think metrics are used wherever you'd least expect one, especially in cramped spots when you have to stop and find the right metric socket).
The new baseplate looks solid enough, and is very unobtrusive when not being used. It doesn't stick out any further than the fascia, which is a whole lot better than old plate on the Jeep, and that one was a major knee-biter because the pointy pieces were right at shin/knee height as you'd walk by it.
One snag, and it almost turned out to be a nightmare. The baseplate comes with 2 mounting posts sticking out the front for the wiring-connector plate. When I tried to screw one of the bolts into the post, the screw promptly broke off. No problem, I'll just get an Easy-Out screw-extractor, right? Uh-uh, I broke off the extractor. Ok, I'll forget that side and just go with the other hole. Nope, now I broke off the screw in THAT hole too. Grrrrr... Well, after an entire afternoon of trying to hammer out, drill out, cuss out and just plain pounding out the offending obstructions, my wife sweetly asked why not weld the connector-plate on instead.
Well, duh!!! I was so fixated on one solution I'd completely overlooked the obvious. Fortunately we found a very nice RV-service place nearby to help out, and now it all looks quite professional. By the way, the RV place said this wasn't the first time they've encountered that problem, and we decided it's because the baseplate powder-coating can snag the screw-threads. I'd suggest using a tap to carefully clean the holes and dab some anti-seize compound to the threads before you start.

The lube-pump proved to be the most challenging. Not because it was difficult, but because it was performing heart-bypass surgery to the transmission and I was worried. Turned out to be unfounded, however, because the install went smoothly.
The pump itself is mounted to the radiator-support bracket with the hoses and wiring snaked carefully down and along the driver-side of the bracket. It wasn't the optimum position to my way of thinking, since it isn't that far from the hot engine itself, but there just plain wasn't any room elsewhere to put it. Drilling into the transmission pan to mount the return-hose fitting was also an easy job, especially after I called the local dealer and was reassured they had an extra pan in stock if I made a boo-boo.
Making sure I˜d be cutting the right hose for the diverter-valve was interesting. Directions say to remove one hose and then ˜bump' the engine to see if fluid comes out the hose itself or out the tranny, which determines if that was the supply or return side. Ever notice how quickly a brand-new engine will catch and start? I'd already cautioned my wife to be ready to cut it off if it started, and that was a darn good thing. All I had to do afterwards was clean up a quart or so of transmission-fluid which was all over the floor, engine, firewall, me ...
The coach-side of the lube-pump job was also easy. Run a couple wires from the new connector at the coach-rear all the way up to the dash area, splice into some wiring and mount the display-box. I'd initially chose to put the display-box down low on the right side of the dash, but think it should be placed higher-up and more in my field of vision, so's I can see the red/yellow/green indicator-lites at a quick glance.

Turn and stop lite wiring was easy but time-consuming. Remco provided everything needed to wire both the coach and tow-vehicle, and all I needed was to add the labor. Running the multi-conductor cable from front to rear and then finding which wire did what took awhile but was simple. Because I was adding a bumper-hitch and needed to splice into the existing wiring anyways, I didn't use the separate-bulbs idea but went with using the existing wiring and bulbs method instead. Therefore, the diode splitter-box was put at the rear of the ManVan for everything to connect thru.
I never did figure out which wire(s) drove which lite(s) in the coach-side of the lite harness, so I just took the Remco-supplied 4-pin connector and stuck it in the coach 4-pin spot. Maybe someday I'll trace ˜em all out and redo it.
The coach lite-connector went on quite easily, two holes in a cross-brace and it was done. (I made REAL SURE I wasn't drilling into any part of the frame or the hitch assembly itself before I started!).
Reading the ManVan manual (gee, what a concept for me!), I learned that I can pull the HAZARD fuse to keep the panel-display from remaining on while being towed and run down the battery. Coincidently, pulling that fuse also keeps miles from being racked up, but I'm obviously going to keep track of towed/driving miles to keep the accounting systems straight.

Deciding which braking system to go with took the longest time. As you may know, all Monaco coaches built after July 2005 come pre-wired for the US Gear system, but with my typical luck I have a May-June 2005 coach. I'd have gone with them if mine was pre-wired, but now I had a more-open field to choose from. After many phone-calls to many different vendors, studying websites and the comments in the irv2 forums from other users, and simply because I like ˜trick stuff' (I'm a gadget-guy from away back) I went with the new SMI Air Force One system. Rebelsbeach and a few others in irv2 have written about their experiences too, so I won't go into too much detail about how great the SMI folks are, like being able to talk directly with the designers of the system (or for Peter, the president of the company, for that matter) when I had a question. To be honest, I was skeptical about how it is supposed to work, but all concerns turned out to be completely unfounded.
Tapping into the air-system on the coach was another heart-stopper, but went easy. All fittings were included in the kit, and no surprises were in-store. The box at the coach-rear was bolted to the same brace as the wiring connector.
Finding room for the control-box under the ManVan hood was exasperating. Can you believe there was almost NO space for a 4x6x12" box? It eventually got mounted next to the battery, but will probably get moved as I don't like the proximity to possible acids.
The breakaway-reservoir tank was almost as much hassle, even tho it was a lot smaller. It's now in front of the battery, but may get moved someday too.
The actuating-cylinder and associated hose didn't cause any problems or head-scratching, either. I even found the correct van brake-wire to tap into for the coach-mounted bulb to indicate when ManVan's brakes were being applied.

Ok, so how did it all work? Because of other commitments, everything had to sit for 2 more weeks until we could try it all, but one afternoon I did manage to squeeze the van in right behind the coach at our campsite and test things out. Darned if we weren't surprised when all the lites lit, pumps pumped, actuators actuated... and no smoke or excess fluid anywhere!
The first real test kept me on the edge of my seat for the first few miles (ok, for the next 250+ miles), and I must say I am very pleased with the outcome. I think the ManVan pulls better than the Wrangler, and the brake-system certainly makes a big difference when slowing or stopping. It's like it's not even back there anymore. Besides, the dog loves his new ˜ride'.

The End (almost).


I should add that I purposely haven't included detailed ˜instructions' since the vendors provided good manuals themselves and because your configuration or options may be a bit different, but I'd be happy to offer my experiences/suggestions if anyone is interested.
Let me also say that I'm not ˜dissing' other products or vendors that are out there, but I liked what I knew and learned about the BlueOx, Remco and SMI products and felt they had what I wanted and needed. They work superbly for me, and I'm happy.

Speaking of being happy, most of the products came from RV-Upgrades and they were wonderful folks to deal with. After the first phone-call or two, Debbie recognized my voice and we're now great friends. Fair prices, superb customer-service, everything showed-up as advertised, and was delivered when they said it would be. I highly recommend RV-Upgrades products. It don't get no better'n that no-how!

... Ok now it's ˜The End'
__________________

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Old 01-02-2007, 05:36 PM   #3
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Sounds like you had a great 'learning' experience. I've installed baseplates on a 2002 Ford Focus and a 2004 Explorer. The Explorer was easy compared to the Focus. Never had to do a lube pump and I'm currently using the Blue Ox Apollo but not entirely satisfied with it. Thinking of switching to SMI or something else.

Bust any knuckles??
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Old 01-29-2007, 06:12 AM   #4
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Over the holidays I hooked up to a new 07 Malibu using the Blue Ox Towbar and baseplate and installing a US Brake system in the toad. 30 days later, I traded rvs. Now I have to uninstall the controller and wiring in the 2000 Fleetwood Southwind and re install in a 2005 Itasca Sunrise. Took installing dealer (Rowells, Indian Trail, NC) less than 30 minutes to do the de install. Will do the re install next week. Techs are good and don't think it will take an hour. Life is good--if you don't complicate it. The Malibu tows great. Can't wait for warmer weather and getting on the road.
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Old 01-29-2007, 06:43 PM   #5
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smlranger - Well, I do have to admit that the air got quite blue a few times after the wrench slipped off the bolt, but was fortunately stopped from scratching any paintwork by my fingers.

samabago - Yeah, take it to the experts, they know what they're doing. As I toiled away, I kept reflecting on the fact that it typically takes 6-7 days to build an entire motorhome, and I was longer just doing the tow-setup.
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