Life En Route - Our journey on the road

Insurance Review

by James 0 Comments

We carry seasonal full time coverage on our RV which gives us quite a bit of additional coverage for contents. Instead of the usual $1,500 or so it will cover $10,000 for damaged or stolen goods. We also insure it for an agreed value, rather than actual worth. The agreed value is more than we have it financed for, and includes the value of certain permanently mounted additions, like the generator and disc brakes. Insurance like this is expensive, we pay $1,800 or so per year for the RV alone.

Until now, our auto insurance was less thought out. But I’ve put a lot of money into my truck, so I wanted to get the most I could out of our policy. I called Nationwide and asked about custom items coverage, and they said that they have a maximum customization coverage is $15,000. Upon finding that it runs $20/mo additional, I opted in. Additionally, we have a lot of very expensive gear inside the truck, that is a lot more likely to be tampered with or stolen. I opted for an additional $3,500 in coverage for GPS and radio equipment, at a cost of $20/mo. So it came down to $40/mo to cover an additional $18,500 worth of modifications made to the vehicle.  As much as I hate paying for insurance, $40 buys a lot of peace of mind here.

New Lights at Night

by James 0 Comments

Since I completed my additional light install today, I wanted to grab some photos of how they do at night. The first photo is of headlights only. I don’t have stock headlight photos, but I believe these to be 3-4x brighter than factory. So keep that, and the fact that the driveway is slanted downward, in mind…

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The second photo is the new lights only. Headlights are off in this photo! Part of this can be attributed to the sheer height of the bar, but a lot of it has to do with the light it puts out.

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And this photo shows the reason these aren’t highway approved.  Throughout these photos the beams look off center, but that is an illusion based on the positions they were taken from. This is a lot of light for $180. Overall I’m happy with the results.

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Additional Lighting

by James 1 Comment

When I bought this truck, one of the first things I did was retrofit HIDs onto it. Whoever designed the lighting for this truck has never driven at night, or at least never thought to test their work. It’s a very common complaint over at duramaxforum.com, and there are lots of kits to address it, and it is very obvious why once you drive a stock truck like this at night. I went with the Morimoto 35w 5500K HID kit and their matching fog lights. I’ve been very happy with the purchase, and it’s a huge improvement over stock.

Still, lighting is one of those things that when you need it, you really need it. And I wanted to add some additional lighting to further improve things. I ended up buying  a Rough Country light bar mounting bracket kit, which required drilling into the A pillars of the truck. Unfortunately, when drilling, the bit broke right as the hole broke through and the tip of the remaining bit banged up against the outside of the A pillar, denting it and disturbing the paint. So this mod is now irreversible (at least according to my standards) unless I want to go to a body shop. I paired the mounts with a SLDX 288w light kit that came with two 18w spots. The kit is sort of a knock off/clone kit of the Rigid bars, but is a tenth of the cost and has great reviews, so I figured I would give it a try. It’s difficult to see how bright it is during the day, but it is far brighter than the headlights could legally ever be at night.

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I drilled into the Ranch Hand bumper to mount the standalone lights, which worked well. I’m not 100% happy with the mounting of the bar because of a couple reasons. One, the passenger side mount feels a little loose. It is riveted in and the only way to re-rivet it is to drill them out. I’m going to wait and see if it fails before bothering with that. With the light bar on it is pulled taut and feels solid, so it may not be an issue. It was my first time dealing with a riveting gun and I don’t think I had it pressed hard enough against the rivets to seat properly. The driver’s side was my second take, and turned out perfect. Second, the light wants to tilt downward. There is nothing on the Rough Country brackets to prevent them from doing so, so I’m pretty sure this is not a product of the light, but a product of the mount. The lights have a keyed edge on them that would ordinarily grab and hold the mounts they come with. I have to believe this would be an issue with any light and these mounts. I used a nut between the light and mount to hopefully hold it steady, but time will tell. The points of the nut lock into the keying on the light, so the only question is if I have the nut tight enough against the mount to hold. It is pretty tight but could potentially be a little tighter if I had a thinner wrench that would actually fit down between the two surfaces.

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There was a very loud and annoying whistle on my first test drive. I found some weather stripping in my garage and put it on the bottom of the light, which eliminated 85% of the noise. The other 15% is within my expectations, but I ordered some more weather stripping to put on another couple heatsink fins to see if it helps.

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For the switch, I tossed out the cheap switch it came with and decided to use this little rocker switch I found on Amazon. I was looking for a basic switch and ran across this, for about $10. I used exterior attachment tape to stick it onto the Kelderman controls that are screwed to the underside of the dashboard. For this particular logo I would have rather had red, but it was out of stock.

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The wiring harness was designed to run the bar and the standalone lights separately, but I chopped the standalone harness and integrated it into the bar, so there is only a single switch. This is a lot of light for a $180 investment.

Ham Radio Changes

Like most things I invest a lot of money into, I spent a long time researching ham radios and was convinced that the radio to get was the TM-D710GA. It was ordered and on its way before I was able to speak with my uncle who, upon hearing what I’m looking for in a radio, informed me that I need to be looking at HF radios. So what am I looking for in a radio, and why am I looking at ham in the first place?

  1. We want to travel throughout the rural western US, Canada, and eventually make our way to AK. We do not want to be stuck without communications in areas without cell signal. This is major.
  2. We want APRS tracking so family members will know where we are while traveling.
  3. We want to be prepared for any natural disaster, should it be tornado, flood, wildfire, etc, and be able to establish contacts outside the affected area if this ever happens.
  4. Though probably less likely, same as above for other major crisis.
  5. We bought our scanner partially for infotainment. We rarely listen to the radio when traveling in the car, and might use ham as another means of entertainment.

It turns out that with the radio and antenna combo I had chosen, the 2M band would get us to about 70 miles out under good conditions, without the use of a repeater. That’s a lot when you’re in an urban area like Austin, but won’t do what we’re looking for in bullets #1, 3, and 4.

Unfortunately the radio and antenna are among the best VHF/UHF combos on the market, so that is as good as it is going to get unless we go to HF. The problem with HF is that there are not any HF/VHF/UHF radios that support APRS, so we would either have to have a standalone APRS solution or a standalone HF radio to accomplish all of the above goals. The least expensive route would have been to exchange the radio I bought for an Icom IC-7100, which supports HF/VHF/UFH, and buy a standalone APRS beacon for approximately $300. I was planning on doing this, but realized it is not ideal because of the following:

  • Turns out the IC-7100 does not have dual receive. A lot of people prefer standalone VHF/UHF radios because of this, and I’m sure they know what they’re talking about. I’d probably be looking to change it up after a while, which is something I don’t want to do.
  • A standalone APRS like the Micro-Trak RTG50 requires its own antenna, bringing me to a total of two VHF/UHF antennas plus a HF antenna. I’d like to keep antennas to a minimum.
  • A standalone APRS like the Micro-Trak RTG50 does not have a receiver. Though it doesn’t sound like a deal breaker to me at this time, a real APRS radio like the TM-D710G I have will receive and display the coordinates of nearby APRS beacons. You can even export this to a map or GPS display (including apps that run on your phone and connect over bluetooth). I may change my mind about wanting this feature in the future.
  • APRS apparently has an emergency/call-for-help mode that you cannot respond to with a standalone tracker (see above point) or send out using one.

I hit several forums looking for advice and assistance and basically found that the radio I have is the best one to get for APRS. Between that and the limitations of the standalone trackers, I decided to keep it. Going to HF then became another decision of whether to blow the budget now, or invest later. Since I want to do the installs correctly, I have to pull apart my dash, remove both front and rear passenger seats, pillar trim, center console, and turn up the carpet to run cables under it. This is not something I’m interested in doing more than one more time (already done it once) so I decided to bite the bullet and do it all at once.

That led me down the path of choosing what HF radio to get. The Icom IC-7100 looks like a superb radio, and I had already been looking at it to perform for all three bands. It has a intuitive touchscreen and just looks like a really nice radio. Ultimately I ruled it out because of the touchscreen as well; even as advanced as they are, tactile controls will last longer. And tactile controls seem safer to use while driving down the road.

The Kenwood TS-480HX is the radio I eventually decided on. It’s a HF only radio that supports 160M to 6M bands. The SAT model (which I originally ordered then cancelled) puts out 100W, but I ended up getting the 200W HX version. The HX version lacks an antenna tuner that the SAT has, so you have to use an external one.

I will be mounting it here, using some RAM mounts I ordered:

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Note the picture was me test fitting the TM-D710G, but this is going to be a better location for the TS-480SAT. It’s a little larger than the TM-D710G. Here is how the control heads compare in size (courtesy of QRZ forums):

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The RAM mount should actually push the radio up and forward a little bit, enough to still be able to access the accessory ports behind it which we rarely use. The only one we have ever actually used is the 110v one on the right hand side, which I would like to keep free. If that is not possible, I will make a very short extension cord to bring that outlet forward to the cupholders.

Because it needs an antenna that can be used on everything between the 160M and 6M bands, I opted to go with a Tarheel. There are a few different brands of screwdriver antennas on the market, but Tarheel seems like one of the most popular and well reviewed ones and they have a “short” one that is ideal for where I want to locate it. The Tarheel 75A antenna provides 3.5-30mhz coverage and has a lower mast height of just 16″ with a 72″ whip. The way a screwdriver antenna works is by using a motor to raise and lower the mast, therefore increasing and decreasing the length of the antenna. At its shortest length of 16″, I shouldn’t have any problem hitting anything with it mounted on the bed of the truck in the center of the window where the scanner antenna currently is. The motor will be automatically manipulated by a Tennatronix TurboTuner 2 antenna controller. My original plan was to handle this manually, but after speaking to some people I decided otherwise.

In order to accommodate the antenna, I’m going to move the scanner antenna to the driver’s side and reduce the CB to a single antenna install. Then I’m going to mount the Tarheel in the center location. That way I’m still maintaining five antennas on the truck – factory FM/AM, 2/70 on the driver’s side fender, scanner, HF, and CB.

I haven’t been completely happy with the ProClip mount I am using for the Garmin, which kind of snaps onto the plastic and causes a lot of flex and stress, but haven’t gone looking for other solutions. Since I wanted to mount the TM-D710G on top of the console next to the Garmin, I started looking and found a company called Panavise that makes a bolt-in mount that can be used on either the left or right side of the console there:

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I ended up ordering two of them, one for the Garmin, and one for the radio. I will be using RAMs mount to extend and orientate the radio according to my requirements. I haven’t decided which one is going to be on the left or right yet, that will be decided once I have the mounts in hand and can look at them in person. The current dash looks like this, and despite all the radio equipment, I still think it will look like a clean install. Wires will all be neatly tucked under the carpet and inside the console/dash like they are now, and the two mics for the radios will be mounted opposite the CB mic.

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One of the biggest gripes I have with the Kenwood radios so far (and I haven’t turned them on) is that the mics have to be plugged into the base units instead of the heads. I plan to mount the base units under the rear seat, so that means that the mic cables will have to run all the way back there. I ended up ordering power and head/mic extension kits (part #PG-5F, #PG-4Z, #PG-20) for both radios that allow for more remote mounting of everything and will be running the microphone cables out of the center console in the gap between the CB/scanner and the console sides. I also ordered relays, a fuse tap kit, and some spare 12AWG cable to rig everything up to come on when the ignition is keyed, rather than have to manually turn the radios on and off when entering and exiting the vehicle, and wire loom and zip ties to contain the power cables I’m going to run under the cab and into the rear where the antennas feed in instead of fighting my way through the firewall. The only thing coming through the firewall will be the 2/70 antenna, which I already ran and stuffed inside the console last week.

Cognito PISK3008

by James 0 Comments

I ordered a Cognito PISK3008 kit and wanted to have the shop installing my Kelderman install it. They didn’t have time (or supposedly tools) to complete the install, so I tackled it myself today.

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It consists of three brackets (you only use two, one is an alternate to address inconsistent factory parts) that you put under the pitman and idler arms to provide more support for them and keep the center link from moving forward/aft, addressing a design flaw that is exacerbated by larger or heavier than factory tires.

The parts look simple but getting them in and reinstalling everything is a fairly large job. I had to order some special tools – 30 and 46mm wrenches, and a pair of 15/16″ wrenches – and use some of the massive sockets I’ve already accumulated to do the work. I decided to test out my impact and was using it on everything (works great!) but when driving one of the shank nuts (gold, above) through the ball joint at the end of the bracket and onto the drag link it bolts onto I over-tightened it and caused it to crush and swell out. I removed it, and had to hammer it out with an old socket to get it apart (usually moves freely). After mulling over it for a while, and determining that there is no way it actually relies on the ability to move freely there, I decided to reinstall it with plenty of thread locker to hold it in place and torqued it to the appropriate specs. I’ll keep an eye on it and order a replacement ($11 for the part, but nearly $20 for ground shipping) if I think it will be needed.

The main purpose of the kit is to prevent premature wear of the pitman and idler arms, but one of the other things it does is firm up the steering. The factory steering has a lot of play in it and is subject to bump steer, so I had a steering stabilizer installed to help that when doing the front level. The steering was improved, but there was still a lot of room for improvement. I retained the steering stabilizer but had to move it down to underneath the bracket (they interfere with one another). After installing the PISK the steering wheel feels much tighter and resistant to irregularities in the road. It’s another instance where aftermarket parts fix what GM should have done to begin with.

That being said, I’d still buy a GM over a Ford or Dodge diesel any day. They all have their shortcomings, and I still think GM is the best of the bunch.

Suspension/ wheel upgrades are now 100% complete. Overall, I feel it was worth it and am very happy with the results.

Tuning and/or Deleting

by James 0 Comments

I’m not planning on doing either of these things any time soon. They’ve been on my radar, but ultimately I don’t want to effectively void my powertrain warranty yet. Even though the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act theoretically prevents them from completely voiding it, it is pretty well known that they will use any ECU tuning to void out major engine work. If it weren’t for this, I would have tuned long ago. Some of the “hot” tunes can run +200hp or more with only a simple lift pump, but I’m not looking for that. I have had my eyes on a +40hp tow tune that tunes the engine and transmission better for towing, and reduces turbo lag. In my opinion, does what the factory should have.

I will eventually do that, probably in a year or so after I have another 12K miles on it. To accompany that, I’ll convert from the CP4 to CP3, add a lift pump, and Edge CTS3. The CP4 fuel pump is the thing that scares me most about not having a warranty, but it’s expensive to replace. $1600 or so in parts, even more in labor or do it yourself and it is a huge pain to get to. The CP4 was a cost-saving item that they introduced to replace the CP3, that has had high failure rates and fails catastrophically. Not only does the fuel pump fail, but when it does, it sends shards of metal through the entire fuel system, often requiring $12K in parts and labor to correct the damage. There are lots of reports of this happening over at DuramaxForum.com, but for a while I dismissed them as fairly uncommon. Then I realized that I had the same fuel pump in my 2010 BMW 335D, and it was the reason my car spent a month in the shop (under warranty). Definitely not taking that risk here. When the CP3 fails, it usually spares the rest of the fuel system.

There is a lot of debate of emissions in-tact vs non-emissions tunes, referred to as “delete” tunes. These trucks have very complex emissions systems that include re-circulation of exhaust into the intake and particulate filters that are inline with the exhaust. When clean air to the engine and as much input+output as possible means the best running and longest lasting engine, this technology is generally frowned upon by a lot of owners. There is a huge aftermarket for removing all that technology. However what is best for our engines may not be best for the environment, and the EPA threatens to fine you if you remove it. Most places do at least visual inspections to verify that these systems are in-tact during annual inspections, which is what prompted this post for me.

In Travis County, Texas, one of the most environmentally progressive areas of the state, these are supposed to be visually inspected and I thought tailpipe emissions tests performed. I just took my truck in for inspection and they did neither. I left my house, drove 5-10min to the shop, and was still back home in a record 24min. They did little more than check the blinkers, and didn’t look under the truck or under the hood at all. No testing of the exhaust.

I decided not to go with the delete tune because I believe that the EPA regulations are only going to become stricter over time. Even if I can get away with it now, or for another few years, at some point I am sure those regulations will be enforced across the board. I’ve heard of officers at traffic stops doing visual inspections for the DPF devices on the exhausts, though I’m sure that is few and far between. But one of these days it could be common practice, and I don’t want to get into having to worry about that. At some point I will do an emissions in-tact tune, with some supporting mods to prevent catastrophic damage, and call it a day. But that won’t be for another year, or 12K+ miles.

Preliminary Tool Reviews

by James 0 Comments

I have not received the Dewalt 192pc socket set I ordered yet, but I was so impressed with the Makita gear and certain aspects of the Dewalt gear that I wanted to post a quick review.

Coming from Ryobi gear that I really loved, I feel the Makita is a big step up. The actions of the tools are very smooth, they’re light, but manage to feel solid and have a lot more power. I actually broke skin on the palm of my hand opening the chuck on the Makita when it hit the end, where I could always just stop it with my palm on the Ryobi. I didn’t try the driver, but the impact wrench is amazing. I always verify the the lug nuts on my truck are 140-150ft-lbs using a torque wrench before any trip, and picked a random lug to try the impact on. It broke the lug effortlessly and had it completely off in less than two seconds. I threw it back on and didn’t measure the exact spec, but it was over 150# with, once again, minimal effort. The chainsaw made quick work of a random branch I decided to test it on, and is just impressive with its build. Compared to my corded Greenworks chainsaw, which I consider pretty good despite the fact that I’ve had issues finding replacement parts, it seems much better thought out and at least as powerful. The entire bar assembly is far superior. The bits and whatnot look nice, though I haven’t tried them.

The Dewalt tools I ordered are nice, but nothing to write home about. They are all manufactured in Taiwan, which I was pretty happy about as the factories over there are known for producing some of the best non-American hand tools. The fit and finish is really top notch, and though the screwdriver bit case had a few things out of place, I have to really give Dewalt credit for the case designs. Each of the individual units (three in the below photo, one for metric wrenches, one for SAE wrenches, and one for screwdriver + bits) snap together to form a fairly solid little cluster. They have inserts that you can pull out to put in a tool drawer and keep everything organized. Someone put some real thought into them and it shows. I’ll only have the three boxes, but they have other items that come in the same series that I opted out of, like 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ ratchet sets. I chose one of the Dewalt’s larger sets for those, which will come in its own style of case.

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Larsen NMO2/70 Install

I received my Larsen NMO2/70B (B is for black, otherwise it is silver) antenna today and the mounting hardware specific to my truck. I had to cut the weather stripping around the bracket, and the small portion on the side facing the cab didn’t have enough surface for the adhesive to re-stick. I pulled out my 3M exterior attachment tape, cut a 3/4″ square, and used that to stick it back on.

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The completed install looks like this. For now, I just have the wires bundled up under the hood until the radio comes in.

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Tools, Telescope, Ham Radio and Lights

This post is really parallel to this post about finances, and the conclusion of our travel/build spending spree.

I’ve been using consumer grade tools for years. I have a ton of Ryobi gear that has served me very well, Harbor Freight, Husky, and Stanley hand tools that have done the same. The problem with the Ryobi gear is that my two most often used tools, the drill and the driver, have been slowing down. They don’t feel like they have the power that they used to, and the chuck on the drill imploded into many little pieces the other day when I was drilling 1/2″ holes for my antenna mounts. And while all my hand tools have served me well, I have a better idea of what I need now and wanted to buy new tools for the new toolbox. I’ve broken a lot of pieces over the years, and haven’t bothered pursuing warranty services on cheap tools, leaving holes in all my sets.

Some of the newer tools use brushless motors, which are a lot more efficient and last a lot longer than the tools that were offered when I started collecting my many pieces of Ryobi gear. I wanted to go with a contractor grade brand, known for quality brushless tools, to last me at minimum a decade or more of service, and after a lot of research decided to go with Makita. I picked up a brushless 5.0ah drill/driver combo set, which included two batteries, and a promo deal offered two more 4.0ah batteries with purchase. And because I’ve been doing a lot of work on the truck and trailer with very stubborn, large bolts, decided to opt for a dream tool of mine, a 1/2″ Impact. After reading a lot of reviews it looks like they have one that beats many of the air impacts out there in terms of performance. Makita had another promo where if you purchased two bare tools you would get two 4.0ah batteries as well, so I looked around for another tool I’d use. I finally settled on a battery powered chainsaw, because my dad has one he really likes (a Ryobi, I think) and I could use one. It might even come in useful on trips for dealing with firewood and branches preventing us from parking. That gives me four total Makita tools: a drill, driver, 1/2″ impact, and chainsaw, and six batteries. Tools I’ll actually use rather than what they throw into the package sets, and plenty of batteries. I’ve had my Ryobi tools about five years and they’ve seen a ton of abuse; I hope to have these for at least twice as long. In addition to the batteries, I was able to get a flashlight/lantern that uses the same batteries thrown into the deal and picked up a matching 70pc impact bit kit.

As for hand tools, I went Dewalt. It wasn’t so much the brand that sold me, but the set. Most of the socket sets you find have both 6 and 12 point sockets (resulting in lots of duplicates), a useless selection of wrenches, and lots of small tools you’ll never actually use just to inflate the piece count. I found a Dewalt 192 piece set that contained all 6 point sockets, 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ ratchets, a useful array of extensions, and a small set of hex keys.  No wrenches, no useless screwdriver and bits. No fluff. The price was reasonable, especially compared to the other brands I was looking at (Blue Point, Gearwrench, SK) and it comes with a lifetime warranty. I also bought separate metric and SAE wrenches, pliers, screwdriver set, and deep socket impact set by them.

I’ve also collected a lot of specialty tools for working on the truck and trailer. 32-46mm wrenches, for instance. And Tekton torque wrenches I’ve had for a while, and am really happy with. Those will be going in the box as well.

For the telescope section of our list, we wanted something that would be small enough to fit in the RV, large enough to see DSOs, and have a good enough mount to take some amateur photographs of stars, clusters, and galaxies. We decided to get a ES AR-152 and EXOS2-GT mount, Bresser 70 deg 6pc eyepiece kit, Celestron filters, Meade 2x barlow, Pentax K-mount adapter, Hotech Astro Aimer G3, and a ES carrying case for it all. We’ve had trouble getting it shipped out (Never buy from Adorama) and will do a detailed review once we receive all the gear.

I mentioned in this post that I was looking at the Kenwood TM-D710GA ham radio, and that’s the one I ultimately decided to go with, mainly for APRS support. APRS is a tracking technology so that people with our call sign can locate us on a map, such as aprs.fi. Since neither of us are licensed yet, I ordered flash cards for the Technician and General exams, as well as my antenna hardware from HamRadio. The antenna will be a Larsen NMO-2/70B, a 34.5″ tall antenna, mounted on a Comet CV2ANTNCG fender mount on the driver’s side fender just opposite the factory AM/FM radio antenna, and use a Larsen NMO-K NMO cabling kit. I picked up a relay and relay socket off Amazon to wire it in with, and a Lido 22″ seat-bolt radio mount that I’m going to retrofit for a hopefully factory quality install (meaning no wires where they shouldn’t be!).

Finally, at the very end of our list was lighting. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do here, but we’ve had two occasions where we arrived at remote sites at night and the lack of visibility either resulted in us almost getting stuck, or sustaining damage to the RV. I wanted to remedy this if possible. I found a 50″ curved light bar with good reviews on Amazon for a reasonable price, and a RoughCountry mounting kit for it that places it at the top of the windshield. Some of the light bars they are coming out with are insanely bright, and this thing full of Cree 3w LEDs (288w total) should be no exception. The mount requires some minor drilling into the A pillar, but comes with everything you need except for a rivet gun, which is required for the pop rivets they send. I’ve never used one before, but picked one up for around $10 on Amazon. It doesn’t directly address backing up, but should give us a much better idea of what is in front of us before we start backing in. And should be useful in general. It also came with two six Cree 3w LED lights which I may mount on one of the bumpers.

That’s truly the end of our wish list. We’ve bought everything we dreamed up for the truck/RV build over the last several months, and most of it is in transit. I have a long road ahead of me getting these and all the other things we have installed, and getting licensed for the radio. I’ve been able to pass the online Technician practice tests with minimal effort put into learning, but will do a lot more studying before taking the actual test and the General, on the same day. So far I’ve been using hamstudy.org, which is making me wonder if I wasted money on the flash cards. But they’ll be nice to have.

 

Debt, Savings, and a Plan

by James 1 Comment

We’ve been hemorrhaging money on this build for a while now. I think all-in-all, we’re over budget by about the price of a base model Fiat. I’ve justified this by knowing we’re going to live on the road for an extended period of time, and went into it with a no-expense-spared mindset to make it as comfortable, safe, and enjoyable as possible.

There have been several items on the wish list that I haven’t bought, or things I flip-flopped on for several weeks or months. I have a couple major rules with our finances: avoid interest at (almost) all costs, and never have more in debt (excluding mortgage and vehicle payments) than savings. In the past month I broke both of those rules, but have plans to address them in the immediate future. First, I threw the truck suspension on a 1.99% interest credit card. It’s a very small amount of interest, so I’m going to let it slide for a while. Since I decided not to pay cash, I took the opportunity to pay off some other credit cards, and shifted a couple balances around to no-interest accounts before interest began to accrue. Because our savings account has been going down, and our credit card usage going up, I no longer have the < 1:1 ratio I always keep. Unlike a lot of people, I use credit cards, but I use them for points and benefits and will carry balances on them, as long as there are no interest charges. I try to make sure I have enough to pay them off at any time. Instead of complying with our policies, we’re getting closer to 2:1, but at the very most are paying 1.99% interest on one card. Another rule is not to let our savings dip below a few month’s living expenses, and that rule is right at the edge of being broken right now.

Either right before or after the truck came out of the shop, we elected to buy bikes, a telescope, radios, tools, a toolbox, and lights. It’s been a sizable, calculated spending spree and while the list of wants we’ve been mulling over is finally empty, I’m pulling my hair out a little about breaking my own rules. Fortunately I have a few plans to address that.

One of the plans is to gather a lot of junk I’ve been meaning to put on Craigslist for months, but haven’t, and list it. Even with lowball CL prices I should make a few thousand dollars off of it; there are quite a few expensive items, including hitches, computers, TVs, and tools. I also plan to cash out 1/3 of the HPE stock I own, which is worth several thousand dollars. I’ve been sitting on a GAP refund after refinancing the truck that should bring me close to $800, and need to get that processed. And I made two truck payments a couple months ago due to bank error, and can skip a payment at any time if I choose to do so; though I like the extra payment having been applied. Last, I am expecting a contract renewal to come in next month that should be sufficient to correct everything by itself. I don’t like to depend on these, because you never know, but I am guilty of hedging my bets against this anticipated income. The customer in question has been a loyal one for about four years, so I feel I am fairly safe in doing so.