(Formally "Plan V: A Van Dwelling Blog", when I lived in a 1978 Dodge Xplorer 228 Class B motorhome van)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Doghouse swap

I was dreading the dog house cover that the van offered up. Worthless cup holders, no storage at all. I went to a local you-pull-it salvage yard and saw my salvation. A 1990 Dodge extended van (old church van) had a dog house with lots of storage and even a fold out table on the top!

I pulled that sucker and paid the $50 for it.. even though I did feel it was a little too high. Took it home, snapped a few pics of it next to the old one and put it in. Fits perfectly from what I can tell.

Folks online have said they were surprised it fit and sealed properly. From what I can tell, it is a perfect fit.

Fixed the toilet outlet

The toilet that the Xplorers have (at least the older ones) is a Thetford recirculating toilet. The toilet itself is it's own holding tank, so no extra tank is needed for it. Thetford actually still makes the toilet.. presumably the design hasn't changed much since the ones I have seen online look identical to the one in my van. That's a good thing.. if I ever need any parts, they should be available.

When this van was made, Thetford sewer hose connections must have been common. Now a days they aren't. I first tried a Thetford to Valeterra adapter I bought at an RV store but I didn't like how loose it felt on the connector. So I returned it and bought the Valterra pipe fittings, a short piece of ABS pipe, two 22.5 degree elbkiw and ABS cement from Lowes. The reason for the elbows is that the running boards were added to the van, making it very difficult to reach the toilet outlet. I found myself havign to get on my hands and knees in order to look under the van to reach the cap when I was trying the Thetford adapter. Nasty prospect.. having to get down on the ground and put my face so close to a toilet outlet pipe. ICK!!

So I extended the pipe down and under the running board, just enough to clear it. After I let the ABS cement sit a few days, I went back and added some plumbers tape (metal strapping) to the running board to secure the pipe from bouncing around. I also secured the tether for the cap so it won't get lost.

Now it has a modern Valterra hose hookup!

The short piece of pipe on the ground is what was cut off. If you look to the right, you see the old section of pipe as it enters the first elbow. That's how far back the pipe was before... which is why I had to extend it out so much. It sticks out past the running board by about 1/2" with the cap on, no big deal. There is still ample ground clearance in my opinion. Plus it's between the two axles.

Older photos of my van

Here are some photos of my van from back before I bought it. It is a 1978 Dodge B300 Xplorer 228.

First post

I have started this post to document my plans and eventual adventures in van dwelling. I considered doing this back in 2006-2008 but then I got caught up in the idea of buying a house in 2009. I ended up doing so in early 2010 and now find that it really has not brought me much happiness. Plus I really can't afford major upkeep of it! I have put the house on the market with a realtor. I am simply trying to sell it for just enough to get rid of it, plus pay the closing costs and realtor fees.

I have already begun purging my belongings and purchased a van for my future needs. I bought a 1978 Dodge Xplorer 228 for $1500. The 2nd previous owner had the transmission rebuilt in 2011 and then suddenly had to sell it for what ever reason.. for only $500. So the guy I bought it from made a good profit from it but it's worth what I paid for sure. The engine burns oil a bit but it's not too bad. It still cranks up easy and runs strong.

The front end (steering) components all need replacing. I have already ordered all new, high quality parts for this from RockAuto. Had a bit of trouble with the Moog K7051 idler arms they were sending me. The first one was correct, the second was not. So they sent me a third one .. also wrong. The right box, wrong part inside of it. They emailed me that they tracked down another of the RIGHT idler arm and it's on it's way (also free of charge).

The van has a few flaws such as the grey water tank is gone, so I will have to get an RV shop to measure, order and install a new one for me.

I went with a Class B van instead of a passenger van because I once had a 1997 Ford E150 conversion van (without a high top) and I found to be too confining to my tastes. I took it camping a couple of times and would NOT want to live in it full time. I had to either crawl around on my knees inside or stand completely bent over at a 90 degree angle. Plus I will be traveling, not simply staying idle in one place all the time.

Many people choose C for full timing but since I have more the budget of a van dweller than a full time RVer, I choose a B because it blends in better than a C does. Sure, anyone with even one good eye can see it's a motorhome with his roof AC, and TV antenna, appliance vents and sewer drain oultets but it takes up less space than a C. Not just length wise but also height. It's not such a massive presence nor does it have a slightly 'tacky' appearance that Class C's have (especially older ones). Don't get me wrong.. I have nothing against them. Class C's are great for those who want and need the space and don't mind the boxy design.

But in my opinion, if you're going to be doing anything close to van dwelling, a Class C won't work too well. A class B still has looks of normal van overall so it blends in with the surroundings easier than a big boxy Class C does. Even if it has a roof AC. The vehicle itself doesn't look very heavily modified from the outside.