Curbside Living: Quarantine Plans?

A 1950's family enjoying a meal together

This is a short article, but hey, I need something to do and you need something to read! I hope everyone in CC’s community is safe and well. One of the upsides to all this is I have my two college kids home. It’s been a long time since we all five spent this much time together. Maybe we never have been able to, really, since even in high school they had this sport and that project to do, etc.

Downsides of course include that we don’t feel comfortable around my mother-in-law who is 80, or my parents in their early 70’s. We visit, but don’t go in and don’t hug. It’s weird. I haven’t been shaking hands with clients for weeks now, either, but everyone expects that now.

A balaclava, a mask and toboggan in oneI also feel like a bank robber going to the few places I go, wearing a balaclava (which I fortunately had a bunch already from running in cool weather). I don’t put it up all the way over my head for the grocery store, of course.

Underside of engine showing oil filter, 2019 Chevy Suburban

Underside of Suburban, showing the pretty convenient filter and oil drain about even with the front axle

In addition to some family bonding, we have been doing some things around the house and with the cars. I fixed the pull down attic stairs which have been broken for years. Washing and waxing the cars, mainly, but I am going to change the oil and filter in the Suburban soon myself. I’ve had it done three times at the Valvoline pit stop place I like, but I’m looking for projects. It looks super easy, you could do it without ramps if you wanted to wiggle under there. I think there is not enough room to use my creeper, without the ramps though.

An oil change coupon from a Chevrolet dealer

I keep getting constant coupon emails from the selling dealer, for the last couple of weeks. They are here in my town, about 10 minutes from the house. But between making the appointment, and then waiting or having someone follow me over for a ride back to the house, I’d rather do it myself. We don’t have any quick oil change places in this small town, I pass the Valvoline an hour from my house, a couple of times a week. I do wonder how the dealers are holding up right now, sales and service wise, with so many sheltering directives. Anyone out there work for one?

I had a few projects on the 2016 Winnebago View I wrote up previously, so I have tended to those. I added the chrome trim to the black plastic grille. These are polished stainless steel, and nicely made, but are not OEM pieces. The upscale passenger Sprinter vans come with this look from the factory, though I don’t know if the factory executes it the same way. Will they stay stuck on? I hope so, they certainly were sticky enough out of the package. With the “adhesion promoter” you wipe on the black plastic first, they were so eager to stick it was tricky to get them positioned right.

I also added the smoked bug deflector. Our windshield on the 5,600 mile trip out West last summer was a bug-filled mess for days! Cleaning at a fuel stop only gave temporary relief. I hope this helps keep the windshield a little more clear. It’s a nice, German made piece. You can see six raised buttons across the shield; there are six felt lined clips that aggressively grip the ledge of the hood. The deflector then attaches to those clips with six black threaded knobs. The deflector does not come out of the box curved to fit the hood, so it was pretty difficult to get it all to line up right. You have to gently bend the deflector into place. But once you do, voila, the “spring loaded” effect of deflector means those clips aren’t going anywhere. I can’t imagine it ever coming loose or flying off.

Underside of engine showing oil pan, 2016 Winnebago View

Mercedes Sprinter oil drain is super easy, just reach under the front bumper. You can see the dropped down, extended portion of the pan in front of the axle

I changed the oil and filter in the View too. The 3.0 liter Mercedes turbodiesel V6 has an enlarged pan, so it holds 13.5 quarts. This apparently was a change made right about the time this chassis was made (it’s an early 2015 Mercedes Sprinter 3500 in the Mercedes dealer’s system, but titled as a 2016 Winnebago). I don’t know if all Sprinters have that pan, or just the cutaway chassis versions.

Engine oil filter housing, 2016 Winnebago View

Sprinter cartridge filter is up top on the front of the engine. Unclipping the air snorkel helps with access

It’s a super easy job; the cartridge filter is up top, and the pan drain is just under the front bumper, at the front of the pan. I needed a fluted wrench for the filter housing, none of the ones I had from older Mercedes fit. The diesel exhaust particulate filter is sensitive to the type of oil, so I ordered Mobil 1 0w30 ESP (Emission System Protection) from Amazon, which is what the dealer used at the first change under my parents’ ownership.

Mobil 1 0w30 motor oil bottles

Mobil Delvac Synthetic, Shell Rotella Synthetic, and the like are at WalMart and probably would be just fine, but they don’t have the Mercedes approval code for this engine, so why chance it to save maybe $40 every year or so. The manual calls for a change every 20,000 miles which seems nuts, given that in an RV it works at full load about every time it runs. Between my parents and I, we have changed the oil and filter about every 10,000 miles, give or take.

Air snorkel on a Mercedes Sprinter engine

I had a mouse issue with the RV, despite keeping mouse poison all around it and inside. They crawl up the air snorkel, which terminates near the bottom of the radiator. From there, they go all the way into the air cleaner housing, and build a nest. This happened twice. The first time, I had removed the dozen Torx screws to check the air filter (is that really necessary, Mercedes?) and found the housing quite full.

A grate in a Mercedes air snorkel, to stop mice from entering

I cleaned it out, but the next time I drove the RV it seemed to have no “get up and go”. Checking the filter again, this time I found it completely packed full with straw and other materials. I placed a shower drain grate where there is a joint in the snorkel. This stops the mice from getting in, and it hasn’t happened again. There is a horse barn near the storage facility I use, so I guess the mice are commuting. They also chewed on the hood pad, but I replaced it with some foil faced insulation, which apparently they don’t like.

I read online about SumoSprings helping RV’s ride and handle better. Though the View rode and handled OK for a fully loaded box truck, that’s of course faint praise. It frequently hit the rear bump stops, given that it rolls out of the factory taxing the Sprinter rear axle pretty much to the rated limit. There is also the expected “top heavy” feeling, and side to side rocking such as pulling into a parking lot.

A SumoSpring, a foam rubber block that replaces a bump stop on the axle

The front SumoSpring as installed

I ordered the SumoSprings online, about $500.00 for all four. They make various versions, but these are the most common and easiest to install. Front and rear, they simply replace the factory bump stops with a dense, foam rubber block. The front Sprinter model also fits all recent Ford E-Series vans, which was an interesting tidbit. The front model has a stud on the top, and you use the factory nut to install it to the frame.

A SumoSpring, a foam rubber block replacing a bump stop on the axle

The rear SumoSpring as installed (the yellow part). You can see the factory leaf spring is about fully loaded, even though the RV has little cargo on board at this time. Full diesel and LP, but empty water tanks

The rear versions simply twist into a “foot” on the frame rail. Once installed, instead of crashing onto the bump stops, you have a progressive damping action. It is the equivalent of 1,400 pounds increased capacity on the rear, and 1,000 pounds increased capacity on the front, though you should not exceed the factory axle ratings (wink, wink).

The installation instructions looked easy, but you need to raise the vehicle to take the load off the axles, so I had no safe means to do that. It also suggested to remove the wheels to make the job easier and safer. My local mom and pop tire shop charged me $150.00 labor to install all four SumoSprings, which I thought was great. They rotated the tires side to side and checked the brake pads too while the wheels were off.

The results? Stunning. I haven’t driven far yet, but the tire place is 35 miles up a narrow, twisty road from my house, through the Pisgah National Forest. So I drove back down that twisty road to go home, and I could not believe the difference. The best way to describe it is instead of riding, bouncing and leaning like a UHaul box truck, it rode like the Suburban with all five of us, pulling the 6,000 boat. It’s no sports car, but it rode smoother and with much less lean. Bumps no longer make a “crashing” noise, it’s a distant “thump” like an SUV.

Next up: the front cab seats swivel around 180 degrees when you are parked, to face the “house” part of the RV. The driver seat is my favorite seat when parked, as it faces the small dining table so I can eat there, set my laptop there and work, etc. However, it’s a dark place to sit, there’s no good light source overhead for reading.

An LED swivel reading light

So, I added these nifty 12 volt LED reading lights over each cab door, that go on and off, and dim, with a touch of the metal housing. They swivel 360 degrees, so you can use them as a super bright reading light behind the wheel too. Or, you can aim them up and dim them for “mood lighting” when parked.

A fuse splitter in an automotive fuse box

I split the constant hot fuse for the radio memory, and labelled the new wire for the next owner

I used a fuse splitter in the fuse box to get a 3 amp fused hot lead, and used a nearby screw for a ground. I drilled a hole in the fiberboard, mouse fur headliner to mount them, and pulled the windlace trim down to stuff the wires behind the headliner and A pillar trims. They are taking power off a nonswitched chassis fuse slot, so you can use them when parked.

A 12 volt portable cooler

For bottled water and drinks, we found this 12 volt cooler for under $80 at WalMart, which works great. It cools up to 30 degrees below the RV’s interior temperature, so you don’t want to use it for perishables like milk or eggs. But for drinks, it has exceeded our expectations, and creates needed space in the refrigerator. One problem though, is that it needs 12 volt power, even when parked. It came with an adapter so you can use it at home and plug it into a 120 volt outlet. But when we are parked and on “shore power”, the only 120 volt outlets in the RV are nowhere near the cooler, which we leave between the cab seats at all times.

A 12 volt outlet

The first time we camped with the cooler, I left it plugged into the constant-on 12 volt socket on the dash. I assumed the chassis battery under the cab floor was charged off of shore power and/or the diesel generator, like the “house” deep cycle batteries. Well, I was wrong! A week later, the chassis battery was too weak to start the engine when we went to leave. Fortunately, you can push a rocker switch on the dash and “jump start” the engine using the deep cycle house batteries, so we weren’t stranded.

I needed a 12 volt outlet off the house deep cycle batteries when camping, so I installed this switched triple outlet in the entry stairwell (that’s the Igloo cooler plugged into it). It gave us a handy place to plug in 12 volt USB chargers when camping, as well. The house deep cycle batteries are under the top stair, which is also the hinged cover for the battery compartment, so the wiring is only 18 inches long or so. It came with a 15 amp in-line fuse and I labeled it so the next owner knows what it is for. The switch is lighted red when on, which is a handy reminder because you need to switch it off when the RV is not in use. Since it is direct wired to the batteries, it is not switched off by the house power master switch (also adjacent to the stairs), which kills everything between trips.

So, that’s my quarantine work so far. Nothing near what Paul has done to build his own RV from scratch! That’s an impressive feat. There’s more to be done around my garage, and some of it may merit a write up!