Dog Truck Project
Two people, three or four dogs, sled, scooter or rig, travel stuff, serious winter stuff, dog stuff (see About Us to read about how we got here). One aging SUV. We can go to a local trail for a morning run with the scooter, two people and three dogs, or we can go for a spring/fall weekend with two people and two dogs, or with winter gear for a weekend with one person and three dogs. Even with the roof box, bike rack and sled rack it doesn't all fit.
Here's our story about getting a dog truck. Use the links to skip to any of the parts. Still to come -- a photo album of the Tiger and all the features and equipment.
2014-12: Furnace and Power Upgrade
2013-11: Major Suspension Upgrade
2012-09: Our first long trip; PA to Athabasca AB.
2011-10-21: The Tiger is home!
2011-08-31: The truck is at Provan.
2011-08-09: We got first pictures of building the coach.
2011-07-20: We have our truck
2011-06-29: Truck has been built
2011-06-23: Truck has a build slot
2011-06-11: Truck ordered
2011-06-07: Getting a Tiger
What We Need
We're now ready to go on longer trips -- there aren't too many sled dog events close to Pittsburgh, and most are two day events. The MI UP, or NH are a bit of travel (equi-distance). Hotels aren't an option for traveling with multiple full-sized dogs. Everything won't fit in the Highlander. So it was time to think about getting something better for travel. Our basic requirements:
Carries at least two people, possibly 4 for day trips.
Carries three or four dogs (or maybe five).
Suitable for long distance travel (1000+ mile trips).
Suitable for off road travel.
Suitable for winter travel.
A place for the dogs to stay overnight.
Room to haul all the gear, including the sled, rig and scooter.
Possibly a place to sleep two, for several days to a couple weeks.
Can be our year round vehicle -- the dogs go somewhere almost every day.
So we thought about our options:
A full size, 1/2 ton, crew cab, 4x4 pickup with a cap on the back. Everything can fit -- two dogs behind the passenger seats, two in the rear, gear and clothes in the rear, sled or rig on the roof or scooter on the back. Could work. But shuffling the dog crates around isn't the most convenient, nor is it the best sleeping arrangement for them. Our friend Polly had transported her dogs and gear this way, but not for overnight stays. Dog events start early, and tend to be away from civilization, so we would still need to find a place to sleep.
A Toyota Four Runner. Similar to the pickup option, but better access to the dogs. Getting all the gear and 4 dogs in would be a bit tight -- Polly recently swapped her pickup for a Four Runner, so we had an idea of what would fit and how.
A slide in camper on a 4x4 pickup. Solves the where do we sleep issue, but still not convenient for shuffling dogs around, or keeping tabs on them while traveling. And probably not the best living arrangements for the cold.
A conventional RV. Not good for winter travel or off road (not 4x4). Typically built for 3 season travel (Spring, Summer, Fall), while our main 3 seasons are Fall, Winter, Spring.
A travel trailer. Towing in the winter? Access to off road sites? Still a three season vehicle. Not a serious contender.
Convert an RV to 4x4. You can do an aftermarket RV 4x4 conversion, but it's aftermarket, and it's still a three season RV. There wasn't an obvious RV to even start with, e.g., what's good for winter.
A van. Sort of equivalent to the Four Runner option, but with maybe a bit more space. Better access to the dogs, but we lose 4x4.
More research needed.
We seriously considered getting a Mercedes Sprinter Van and doing a conversion. The Sprinter can be customized into a nice RV, winterized, but it's still not a 4x4 (why don't they import the 4x4 Sprinter? -- it's available in Europe, along with similar 4x4 vans from all the other manufacturers). We block our driveway in the winter to keep these kinds of vans out -- had to tow too many out of our driveway with the tractor over the years. So we dropped that idea.
We thought about a Sportsmobile 4x4 van conversion. It's a 4x4 conversion, we weren't thrilled with getting a Ford and the popup isn't a winter camper. Not a serious contender for us.
So it's May '11 and we started to seriously research the Tiger.
The Bengal Tiger is a 4x4 RV built on a 4x4 1-ton pickup of your choice. There are a lot of options, both for the truck and the coach, and lots of add-ons. Almost everyone customizes their Tiger, and the manufacturer, Provan Industries of Columbia, S.C., builds less than one a week. While it's not "custom", it's about as close as you can get. Tiger owners are pretty enthusiastic about their RVs, and there are a two helpful owner's groups: older and newer.
We read all the old messages, looked at pictures, etc. There are a couple great blogs. White Acorn is the story of a couple of Aussies who took their Tiger from the Eastern US, to the North Slope of Alaska, south to the tip of South America and then back east. The Travelin-Tortuga is another great site about a couple's adventures with their Tiger, also to Alaska and South America and now on to Europe. Both talk about their experiences and their Tiger configuration. And Don and Barbie have the Wonderers Blog about their '11 Tiger and their travels with their dog.
OK -- we're convinced that this RV can go where we wanted to go. It seems to have the features and options to meet most of the requirements.
But this is a big investment, so we wanted to see one; we're not doing this sight unseen. As we've said, there aren't a lot of these -- the company has made less than 1200 over 20 years (through 2012), and the older models are quite different. There wasn't one close to Pittsburgh that we could see right away. Fortunately, we both had business travel planned that took us through Charlotte, N.C. and Provan is only 2 hours away, so we scheduled a factory visit. While we were waiting for our visit to check out the Tiger, we started doing truck research.
The Tiger can go on a Ford 350, Ram 3500 or Chevy 3500. You can pick 4x4 or 2WD, regular cab, extended cab or crew cab. You can pick any trim level, but mid-level trim seems to work best. You won't find one of these big trucks sitting on the lot at most dealers, but since it seems that everyone's second vehicle in Pittsburgh is a truck, we were able to find something that's close enough to look at and test drive.
Our base truck choices from the start.
A 4x4 -- winter off road travel is a requirements, even to get out of our driveway.
A crew cab -- we need the space for the dogs.
Every other truck option was open for choice. Well not quite -- you need a long bed/long wheel base, and it has to be a pickup, not a 1-ton chassis cab. And it can't be the Dodge Maxi cab, which would have been nice as it's a little more space for the dogs, and the floor behind the seat is flat, but there's not enough frame left for the coach (the Tiger frame already has an 18" frame extension).
Gas vs. Diesel. Consensus is that diesel is better power (experience confirms the torque and power), longer range (bigger fuel tank so we can stop according to dog schedule), better mileage, but it adds about $8K to the price. They can be really reliable -- our little Kubota diesel tractor is just a wonder workhorse and as long as it has a good battery it will start. We're not planning to go South, but North; new diesels use low sulfur fuel which isn't available south of the border so that wasn't an issue for us.
New diesels also use DEF, urea additive to cut down on exhaust emissions, and if you run out, the computer will eventually reset the throttle to max out at 4 MPH (if you read About Us, you know we are info junkies, we read the complete owners manual and the upfitters manual for all three platforms). The Ram Cummins diesel still had a DEF exemption for 2011 and 2012, so +1 for Ram. Ideally for cold, you want a mix of #1 and #2 fuel oil (available standard in Canada in winter), but we should be OK with #2 for most of our travel.
You also get an exhaust brake on the diesel which should help on down hill segments (again, experience shows this is great for just creeping down hills without using your brakes), but you need a block heater for the cold. Rams also come with heated battery blankets, which helps cold weather starting. You can get these after market, so just +0 for the Ram on this (but a great idea).
We were also surprised to see the difference under the hood. It looks like you can work on the Cummins, maybe on the Duramax, but the Power Stoke engine compartment looked like a mess. +1 Ram, -1 Ford
Manual vs. Automatic. We both like to drive a stick. But Heather has bad knees and driving our 1/2 ton Ram pickup is hard on her knees. Also, we're thinking a bit about resale, and a stick might not appeal to as many people. Being able to lock down the range on the automatic seems like a good offset. Our objective when we got the stick on the pickup was to be able to control that low range pulling (we end up using "Tow Haul" mode all the time for the better shift points).
Single Rear Wheels (SRW) vs. Duals (DRW). Duals give you better load carrying; the Tiger coach puts over 2000# on the chassis permanently (close to the GVWR limit of the truck). Duals mean 7 tires vs. 5, so higher replacement costs. Since there is less weight on each tire with duals, they may float on snow, rather than digging in, and since the wheel track is wider, the truck may kick from side to side on rutted roads or in snow ruts. We think Tigers also look nicer with SRWs, the DRW fender flares just don't seem look like they belong, but Provan may be improving the design (the silver Ram DRW Tiger that we saw when our Tiger was being built looked pretty nice). We didn't seriously consider a DRW -> SRW conversion, but with a bigger budget that might be a good choice.
Choice: SRW. maybe. Still hadn't picked the truck make. The Ram weights almost 1000# more than the others, and the SRW GVWR is less than the GVWR on the duals, so the Tiger would be over the weight limit of a SRW Ram. Doable, but probably not a good idea. -1 for the Ram.
Cab Features. We wanted nice seats, power for both driver and passenger. And we wanted dual zone climate control. We didn't care about all the fancy radio stuff, or built in GPS. Technology changes too fast here; our '96 SLT top of the line Ram has a cassette tape deck, manual seats, manual mirrors, ..., but in terms of longevity and resale, we wanted to go for some higher end options.
But the highest level trim adds too much (that power rear slider gets ripped out), and we do want to take out the console to get into the back easily, and take out the rear seats for space for the dog crates.
This is where trim level makes the choice difficult. You can't seem to get passenger power seats and dual zone climate controls on the mid level trip package of the Ford or Ram, but it is available on the Chevy as an option. And we found out that you can get aftermarket heated, custom leather, OEM seats for the Chevy. +1 Chevy.
We did lots of measurements. While they all look about the same, the Chevy interior is a tad smaller by the tape, but it doesn't feel smaller. But the biggest difference was the seats. Heather has long legs, and we found the Ford seats did not to feel as good. The Ford seat is about 1.5" shallower than the Chevy or Ram, not enough upper leg support. -1 Ford.
We were also concerned about how the door handles work on the Ford. Dog paws might get caught, or a loose dog might be able to open the doors. -1 Ford.
Choice: not Ford. Ford was always at the bottom of our list, and the cab features and seats took it off the list.
Test Drive. We were able to find a 1 Ton or 3/4 Ton diesel, crew cab, long bed, SRW at three adjacent dealers, so we were able to test drive all three on the same road loop on the same day (we did a separate test drive at different dealerships for each too). There wasn't too much difference in handling and power, and since we already drive a moderate size pickup, they all were comfortable to drive. The Ram instrument package really hasn't changed in 15 years, so it felt old hat, the Ford glass cockpit didn't suit Heather.
Choice: No substantial difference
Availability. It was now late May '11. We were looking for a diesel, automatic, 4x4, crew cab, SRW, long bed. It was after the last day to place a custom order a '11 Ford or Ram, and a '12 would be about the same configuration, but 3% more in price, and you couldn't order a '12 yet. Custom orders for the '11 Chevy were still available, until June 21. There were no Chevys in stock that were close to the configuration we wanted. There were 3 Rams available in the East, one in Minnesota, one in Miami and one in New Jersey.
Compromises. The perfect truck didn't exist. If we could make anything, it would have been an in stock 2011 truck with a Ram drive train on a Ram DRW chassis and suspension but with SRW, a mid level trim Ram or Chevy cab, with dual 10 way power seats and dual zone climate control.
Ford was out of the mix. Chevy and Ram were still compromise contenders to get us as close to our ideal, but the dual power seats, climate controls and 2011 availability put the Ram second.
But we were going to defer the decision until we saw the Tiger up close and personal.
BTW. We found the local dealers, especially the commercial truck folks, to be quite nice. It also seems to make a difference when you walk in and ask about buying the most expensive truck they have. This has been our best ever vehicle shopping experience so far.
In the process, we also found Truecar.com. It has a much better listing of options than the manufacturer sites and makes the configuration process simpler while making it hard to configure something that can't be built. Their option info is fantastic and comprehensive -- we knew more about configuration combos than many of the local sales folks. Their pricing data is great (sticker, invoice, cost, high sales price, lowest sales price), and our local dealers were able to match or beat their best price!
We made it to Provan on June 6 '11, and Mark was waiting for us with two Tigers in the lot. We spent a couple hours looking around and asking questions, and then came back the next day for a walk through of the shop to see the manufacturing process and the Tiger "innards", and then we took a Tiger for a test drive. We had a long list of potential Tiger options from our homework, an even longer list of questions, and our truck configuration options from Truecar. Mark was able to confirm we had picked the right truck options, but asked about a couple minor things we didn't pick that he normally gets, like floor mats. This is where we wanted something better for winter slop, so we had put together a pretty nice unit, on paper.
It's noon in SC, and our 4PM flights are out of Charlotte, in N.C., so it's decision time. We give Mark a deposit check to get our space in the manufacturing queue, shake hands and we head on to our week of business travel. More about the Tiger options we picked below.
When we left Provan we had decided on the Chevy over the Ram, but hadn't decided if we were going to get it in PA or have Mark get it. The next day we called our local Chevy dealer and asked about ordering. It's complicated in PA. The Tiger is considered a weight class 5 truck, with custom upfit. It's not an RV, and for us, it's insured as a customized truck, not an RV. Lot's of confusing research on the PA Motor Vehicles web site, and calls and email to the dealership, insurance agency, and Provan. Our options: get a truck with bed delete in PA and drive or tow it to SC; buy in PA and drop ship to SC; have Provan get the truck for us; or get a regular truck with a bed and take it to SC. And with the delivery to SC you can get the finished Tiger in SC, and have it come back and be registered in PA only when done. We finally decided to get the truck in PA with the bed on it and then drive it to SC. We'd go back down to pick it up and drive it home when it's ready. It gets purchased, registered, licensed and insured in PA when it comes, and then the insurance and stuff changes after the upfit is completed.
2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD
4WD Crew Cab 167.7" SRW LT
Suspension package (standard)
LT Preferred Equipment Group (standard)
Interior Plus Package (6-way power driver seat, steering wheel audio, dual zone climate control)
Skid Plate Package
Allison 1000 6-Speed Automatic Transmission
All Season Tires (LT265/70R18E)
Engine Block Heater (standard)
Dual Batteries (standard)
High Idle Switch
Integrated Trailer Brake Controller
Exhaust Brake (standard)
Fog Lamps (standard)
Audio Features, USB and Bluetooth
Driver 6-Way Power Seat (part of interior plus package)
Passenger 6-way Power Seat (seat package)
Floor Console (seat package)
Steering Wheel Audio Controls (package)
Dual Zone Climate Control (package)
3:73 Rear Axle Ratio
AM/FM Stereo with CD, MP3 (package)
Front Bucket Seats
We got our first report (July 6) was that the truck had been built. It was actually built June 29, it arrived at the dealership on July 18 and we got it July 20th!
We had a month of driving it before taking it to Provan, both local and a road trip to DC. It feels nice to drive, and has lots of power (will easily accelerate from 35 to 80 to pass someone). Turn on the exhaust brake and put it in tow mode and it will walk down a 15% grade without braking. There are a couple minor design nits -- you can't disable the auto locking doors, the climate control doesn't remember if you had recirculate on after you turn off the engine. Nor does it remember if it was in tow haul mode; and there's no DEF monitor.
Are all Tigers White?
In all the pictures we saw, the Tiger is white, both truck and coach. We asked Mark, and like many things, you can get the coach painted to match the truck color (but the top of the roof is left white, which is a good idea).
So we ordered the truck in Blue Granite (it's the end of the model year, so not all colors were available, but we had to give backup colors). And we wanted to get the entire fiberglass top white, not just the roof (our friend Babeth did Photoshop mockups in all blue and two tone -- mockup shown on the left, finished Tiger right). Our plan is to put some sort of winter/mountain/snow scene around the top.
The interior of the truck is Ebony, which is dark grey. It's a color that won't show too much dirt and dog fur. It was great that our local dealer had every color option available on the lot (in 1500's) to see -- did we say that everyone in Pittsburgh has a truck (over 100 in the lot, but it is the largest dealership in the area, one of the largest truck markets, and were Chevy is the market sales leader)?
Mark had just finished a Tiger with black counter and table tops and had a spare set, so we had him save those for our Tiger.
We're doing a couple other "branding" marks. Our team colors are blue and silver and most of our gear is blue with silver trim and some black, so thus the color scheme for the Tiger. One branding is putting a pair of GMC Denali badges for the doors. And we have a Brockway Huskie hood ornament. Brockway trucks were made in our area and while Macks have bull dogs, Brockways had Husky ornaments. Ideally our Tiger should get a "Siberian" tag (during our visit, Mark told us about the then upcoming Ford 550 based Siberian Tiger, but Ford wasn't on our list at that point), so it looks like we'll need a different name -- maybe Snow Tiger. But we finally just called it Best in Snow.
Tiger Standard Features & Factory Options
We picked the following for our Bengal Tiger (we picked the Bengal for the added height and better windows). Note: Provan provides a lot of options and what you get as standard changes. You need to negotiate what you want; just because we got it doesn't mean you can get it and Provan is making changes and enhancements all the time. Lots of the things that were options when we got our Tiger are now standard.
We think we have all the part and model numbers and links to the manufacture's sites for our Tiger, but the information on the web and the actual product brochures may be different (and links may break).
For the coach body:
We thought about deleting the front windows, but after seeing the Tiger we decided we wanted the extra light, so no mods to the windows. You can remove them after the fact, but you can't put them in unless it's part of the initial build.
We kept the standard manual steps, didn't want to risk the electric ones freezing in the cold. We added some traction tape or astro turf mats so the dogs don't slip.
Added a second Fiamma 4500 8' awning on the drivers side (more shade for the dogs).
Provan built a flat floor platform for the crew cab area, so it's a level floor throughout the coach.
Novakool R4500 4.3 ft^3 standard fridge (no need for a separate freezer, no need to get the light, but after our first long trip, we should have gotten the light). Our solution was a stick on LED battery light.
Dometic 3BR-1040132 EK 2000 three burner flat surface cook top (for extra lay down space) The link is to the CE 99-DF-G which seems to be the same.
Standard range hood.
Sharp 820BK-F double grill convection microwave oven (below the cook top).
TV prewire only (see more below about communications and networking below).
Standard Coleman Polar Cub (Airxcel 49201) 9200 BTU roof top A/C with heat strip (no way we can do without A/C for the dogs in the summer, or heat in the winter). Beware, there are reports about the heat strip coming loose due to vibration, or failing if overused -- it's not a replacement for the furnace.
Fantastic RBT5000 3 speed fan with thermostat (different model than standard that adds the thermostat) (no need for remote or rain sensor).
MaxxAir II manual cover for standard Fantastic fan so it can stay open in the rain.
Standard Airxcel/Suburban NT 16SE 16000 BTU furnace, with dual bathroom/under cabinet heat duct and Suburban 161154 thermostat.
Standard Suburban SW4 4 gallon hot water heater.
Standard LP tank and regulator.
Heated tank pads.
Hot water bypass valve.
Heat for water pump.
Outside shower, with internal shutoff value (for dog and mud cleanup, but not in the cold).
Standard sink with B&K 222-418 single lever kitchen faucet (Heritance line).
Culligan US-EZ RV under sink drinking water filter (can use level 4 filters, but it is a very tight fit).
Thetford Aqua Magic V Hand Flush high profile toilet (higher than the standard model, so easier to get off the seat).
Standard Shurflow 2088 water pump.
For power (for more info on the Tiger electrical system, see Jon Lockwood's detailed description of the Tiger electical system):
Lifeline AGM GPL-4CT maintenance free batteries.
Extra batteries under the couch (furnace fan, etc., is high load in winter, don't want to run the generator at night, especially since both it and the furnace use propane).
Standard Onan QG 2500 watt LP generator (P/N 2.5KVFA26120L) with exhaust resonator (P/N 155-2449) and remote start with hour meter (P/N 300/5332).
Genturi capable (keep exhaust away from the dogs then they are out) Not installed yet.
Standard Progressive PF4045 AC/DC distribution panel.
Standard 130w solar panel with Coleman/Sunforce 68032 12V 30A controller.
Additional 12v outlets, total of 6: two in bunk (driver side, TV cabinet wall), one in cab rear, two in coach rear (plus standard below sink).
Additional 12v 20A exterior outlet on left rear for macerator pump (or air compressor).
Standard interior 110v outlets
Additional exterior 110v outlet by door (generator power) (plus standard in fridge compartment).
Xantrex Prowatt SW 1000 pure sine wave inverter, with remote. The inverter is located by the extra batteries under the couch. The 1000w can discharge the battery quickly, but our big laptops are 180w each and we want clean power for all the electronics. The remote is mounted by the other power controls and monitors.
110v outlets, inverter power: one in coach rear, one in front top cabinet for strip outlet.
Our supplied APC P11VNT3 strip outlet/surge protector in the top, front, left cabinet for electronics, connected to inverter outlet (with plug sized access hole to overhead area and counter top).
Progressive EMS-HW30C surge protector mounted by the shore power connector (with monitor)
Exterior lights on all sides controlled by a switch by door.
Additional LED interior lights over the overhead bed (one each side), and one in the rear of the cab.
Yakima fiberglass roof rack system.
Additional grab bar at top of ladder (horizontal).
Floor d-rings for tie downs: 8 in rear cab platform floor (corners behind each seat).
Cabinet shelves (removable).
Convert wardrobe to removable shelves.
For safety and monitoring:
Xantrex LinkPro battery monitor.
Coleman/Sunforce 68032 12V 30A solar panel controller.
Standard Kidde battery powered smoke alarm.
Standard Safe-T-Alert 65-542 carbon monoxide monitor.
Standard Safe-T-Alert 40-442a propane monitor.
Standard fire extinguisher (mounted by the door).
Grab bars inside door -- one on each side.
Relocate full length mirror from bathroom door (one of the dogs doesn't understand her reflection) to inside of wardrobe.
Relocate the fire extinguisher to besides the door (leaving it on the rear cab wall will interfere with the dog crates).
Extra bathroom towel rod.
Extra bathroom grab bar, horizontal opposite toilet, sink level.
Extra ladder hooks (4 total, so ladder can be left, center or right).
After Market Options
So, we've got the base truck configuration, base Tiger options, plus things that are on the Provan option list. What follows is what else we did upfront.
Communications and Networking
We're keeping the XM radio activated. We ended up with a lifetime subscription.
We're got a CB. Polly's husband Bill is a commercial truck driver, so based on his recommendation the Cobra 29 LX seems to be the radio of choice -- it has good weather radio features, and we don't need more bluetooth capable devices. For CB antenna we're got at the Wilson 5000, mounted on a bracket just behind the hood on the inside of the left fender. The CB has been professionally "tuned" after installation to maximize it's range. We mounted the CB on the dog crate, between the seats.
Our GPS of choice is a Garmin dēzl 560LMT. This is the trucker GPS, with some RV features. Reviews for the Garmin seem better than for the Rand McNally 710. We picked the Garmin since it has a 5" screen and a second video input that can double as the display for the backup camera. We think the backup camera is a good idea, but Dan has driven trucks before with just little (4"x6", yes little) side mirrors, so the mirrors and rear window on the Tiger could be sufficient for most situations, but the backup camera will help (in serious winter slop the rear window and camera get covered and obscured within 15 minutes, so get used to driving with only the mirrors). After getting the GPS, it seems that there is no way to easily switch between GPS and camera monitor mode, so we'll use the GPS just as the GPS. It also has some operational quirks.
We got just the standard TV antenna, and TV pre wire only (Winegard RV 7012 TV connector). All of our computers have DVD drives, and we can always connect a computer to our Optomoa PK301 Pico Projector and hang a piece of foam core for a 3'x4' screen. We got an AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX USB TV tuner, and ran coax from the TV antenna box, through the surge protector/strip outlet into the USB tuner. The USB cable goes to a USB hub, that also include a pair of USB speakers (to compensate for weak laptop speakers) mounted below the front left cabinet.
We telecommute, so the Tiger will be our remote office. With phone and some daily net access, we can be working from anywhere. Wireless broadband is changing rapidly, and this is where it gets messy. We've spent several days doing research, and we think we have an initial set of network gear. This is as hard as picking the truck (complicated by too much experience, 30+ years of being on the Internet and having connectivity at home -- even before it was called the Internet).
Our devices include 2 Android Google Nexus GMS phones, 2 ThinkPad W510s, a Sony Vaio P, 2 Android Tablets, plus all the little odds and ends of USB enabled devices. We have T-Mobile GSM service (which currently includes unlimited 3G data, and tethering), plus business grade unlimited Clear 4G WiMax data service (with Sprint 3G fall back).
Signal repeaters can help with weak cell signals, an external antenna, connected to a signal booster, and a connection to a device, either from a cable to the device antenna or to an internal vehicle antenna (but smart phones tend not to have plugs for external antenna). We looked at products from Wilson and Cyfre. We weren't able to get enough technical information of Cyfre to do the kind of research we wanted.
For the Wilson products, our first thought was a Wilson Dual Band 801201 signal repeater with appropriate antenna. The exterior antenna, a Wilson 301119, goes on the roof in the rear, passenger size and the interior up front where the TV is normally mounted. The booster goes in the front cabinet. The "normal" interior antenna is the Wilson Low Profile 301127. But it only has a broadcast radius of about 18", good if your phone is next to the antenna. We need good interior coverage throughout the Tiger. We'll be working in the rear, and whoever is in the passenger's seat needs to be on conference calls. One of these won't give us coverage throughout the interior. So we thought about adding a splitter, and getting three of these -- one for the front, one for the upper bed, and one for the rear.
After more research, and a chat with the folks at the 3G Store, we've picked the Wilson 801245 SOHO AG signal booster. It's a little stronger signal booster, but has gain controls, so you can adjust the power output. The interior antenna is the 301135 Wall Mount Panel interior antenna. We're balancing maximum separation of the two antenna vs. internal range. Normally, you need 20' of separation between the interior and exterior antenna, but with the interior antenna mounted in the cab, on the rear wall, facing forward, they say you can get away with 10' of separation, and with tweaking the repeater gain, we hope to avoid oscillation (we can turn off one channel completely, this feature wasn't available on the Cyfre or Wilson 801201). This single antenna should give us good cell coverage throughout the Tiger (but we end up going a lot of places where there is no signal at all to boost).
But this is only for 3G. There are currently no SOHO grade 4G WiMax repeaters (but research implies they are coming). No 4G repeater probably isn't a problem, since a lot of the places we will be going won't have 4G (any maybe not 3G -- confirmed), and we think we can play with where our 4G antenna goes. Hopefully once 4G boosters come out we can still use the 3G exterior antenna.
Our 4G equipment also doubles as our WiFi network. Our first thought was to get a Clear Spot Personal Hotspot Router. Made by Cradlepoint, it turns our Sierra Wireless 250U USB modem (CLEAR 4G+ USB Series S) into a WiFi network (you have to be careful, not all USB modems are supported). This is actually a version of the Cradlepoint CTR35 portable router. But Cradlepoint makes a bunch of routers, and after hours of looking (and reading manuals, reviews, ...) we settled on the MBR95 Wireless 4G/3G Router. This is a new model. It differs from the CTR35 in that the CTR35 has its own battery for true portability. The features of the MBR95 outweigh this (and the MBR95 does have a 12V adapter). We did look at the WiFiRanger and Boost, but they looked to be much less capable network gear.
The MBR is a pretty capable router, with good SOHO capabilities, and supports both 3G/4G WAN access via the USB modem, or it can grab an open WiFi signal for the WAN and create a secondary secure wireless network piggy backed off the public network. With a 10' USB cable, we should be able to position the modem anywhere to get a good signal (if one exists). It's small, with built in antenna, which should be OK for the small size of the Tiger, and we can mount it where the DVD normally goes. It also does fall over, automatically switching between connections, plus other stuff that most people will never use, like setting up a server outside the DMZ. The only thing it lacks is an additional USB port. The MBR95 passed our tests at home, including providing wireless throughout the house, so we got its big brother, the MBR1400 so we can load balance our 2 WiMax + DSL lines into a single pipe for our home.
With all this, we need a little wireless printer (have to be careful, they eat power), and backup disk/file server. We finally picked an Epson Home XP-400 Wireless All-in-One Color Inkjet (Printer, Scanner, Copier) based on being an all-in-one, and fitting on a shelf the wardrobe.
Normally, we would plug a USB disk into the router, but with only 1 USB port on the router, we'll need a little file server. Luckily the router has 4 ethernet ports, so a little 1TB NAS will do. Throw an IP camera into the mix along with the finding good connectivity and we can even do live streaming race video.
We've since added a different router, a TP-LINK TL-WR710N. While it doesn't offer a modem, it is a WiFi repeater, firewall, VPN, and a file/media server with USB ports. We added a .25TB USB stick for storage. A small TP-LINK TL-SF1005D 5-port swich gives us additional Ethernet ports for a wired LAN, and 100Mbps is fast enough. We also added a Anker USB charger to charge all the devices at once, and some inexpensive Bluetooth speakers.
A Spot Tracker isn't on the list for now.
Grill Guard, Bumpers
We need some extra bumper protection: we've almost hit deer just on our driveway. We wanted stainless or aluminum. We don't plan to have a winch, but wanted a front receiver as we might need to put the spare up front so we can carry the dog sled on the back (it's too tall to fit on top and would make the height be over 13'-6").
The Buckstop bumpers seemed like overkill. The Warn grill guard in stainless was our first choice. We looked at Aluminess, and came back to it after reading Don and Barbie's site. The idea of a tool box up front sounded good. But we have added some thin PVC sheeting inside the bumper to keep some of the road slop and salt from coming through the openings.
Real dog trucks often have jury-rigged "outriggers" on the front and rear bumper. You bolt/weld a piece of pipe on the front and back bumpers , and then have a smaller piece that slides out 2' to 3'. You can then run a "picket line" (cable with connection loops) from front to rear, and then can clip your dogs to the picket line with drop cables. This is all pretty standard gear for sled dogs, and our dogs are used to being on drop cables when parked and waiting for their slot to go to the chute.
We initially thought we might be able to just put eye bolts for drop cables into the coach under frame, but the cross pieces don't come all the way out, and there's no easy place to connect
The rectangular tube on the rear hitch of the Tiger is perfect for holding in the outrigger bar. Provan added rear outriggers as custom work. Dan asked Aluminess about doing something for the front, and they built us a bumper with grill guard, fog lights, front receiver, tool box and built-in outriggers. We decided on black powder coat (instead of silver or blue). This all looks nice, neat and professional. We added Bores Bumper Guides so we know where the front end is in tight spaces (got to be able to parallel park the Tiger in the city). The standard Bores guides are designed to fit the a pickup bumper, and are custom bent for each truck/year. So we needed to get commercial truck bumper guides, and adjust them to fit.
So with all this, we still need to figure out how to carry the sled, scooter, and rig. We can't put the sled on top -- it would be 14', too high for underpasses, bridges, tunnels. We thought about a variety of options to carry the sled on the back, vertical, diagonal. Vicki had just gotten her Tiger, and wasn't too far away, so we took a drive to see her, and took the sled. We finally decided we could get a rear hitch carrier, put the sled vertically behind the tire, with the handle bar over the tire. The sled runners slide into PVC tubes. Our sled maker confirmed we could carry the sled this way. And we can put the rig next to it, with the rear wheels on the carrier and the front wheel tied to the storage box.
But standard hitch carriers are either 48" or 60" wide, and the sled and rig together are 66+". We couldn't find anything larger, unless we picked something really big -- 48" x 84", which was overkill, and too hard for one person to take on/off (300#). We considered trying to live with just one small carrier, or to get two 48" ones and somehow splice them together.
While talking with Aluminess, they said they were just starting to make hitch carriers, so they built a custom carrier for us. The design is a basket, like their roof racks, 26" x 80" (almost as wide as the bumper and big enough for the sled, rig and some gear side-by-side, and the 26" dimension will hold a 24 gallon Action Packer, 50Q Yeti cooler or transport case). We mounted a plywood deck (coated with bed liner), so we can easily drill into it and mount things where ever, in addition to being able to tie off on the basket bars. It folds up, so we can leave it on when not carrying stuff. Since it's so wide, it might wobble, thus we went with 2 extra rear hitch receivers, 48" apart, which is the width of the frame on the truck. Provan installed these hitch receivers while they built the rear bumper and we can stand on the carrier to load/unload the sled from its mounting tubes. We've put a lot of stuff on the carrier: rig, sled, transport case, cooler, jerry cans, ... We settled for rig on the left, sled on the right, and built a vertical upright with wheel chock on the swing gate for the top wheel of the rig, and two wheel chocks on the bed. Aluminess built us a custom version of their generator box which we put on the right -- the taller rail matches the height of the drive bar on the sled.
We wanted oval, 5" or 6" steps. We wanted stainless steel (the coated bars on our '96 truck have been repaired once and one fell off recently). Until recently we could only find 5", but 6" ones are now available. Our final choices were the Raptor Magnum (shorter step pads, SS end caps) and the GoRhino Xtreme (longer step pads, plastic end caps). Again, ideal would have been the longer pads and the SS end caps, but we felt the longer pads would be better for reaching out over the windshield, etc. No matter what you get. if you have a Chevy diesel, make sure it fits -- the DEF tank changes the mounting kit.
After two years we replaced the nerf bars with AMP Power Steps. The nerf bars aren't centered vertically -- the step up is much bigger than the step from the bar to the cab and Heather was having a hard time getting in. The power steps split the height difference between the door sill and ground and make it much easier to get in. They automatically fold out of the way, and also have lights for night. They are long, wide and made from stainless steel so they meet all our other criteria.
We put WeatherTech Side Window Deflectors on. This will give us more ventilation for the dogs when it's raining.
We added fender flares, for a little extra protection, especially since the different tires are a bit wider than the fender. Our final pick, Bushwacker Extend-a-Fender. Once we put the Aluminess bumper on, they didn't fit, so we had to remove them temporarily while we figured out how to fit them between the fender and the grill guard. Some body shop work with a heat gun and they fit fine.
The Tiger comes with mud flaps. so we'll go with those for now. But as noted below, we quickly found out we need mud flaps in front of the rear tires which we added. The raised suspension requires larger front mud flaps.
We've added some high quality 3M 983-10 white conspicuity tape on the bumper and outriggers to help mark the corners and edges of the Tiger.
We added some more bed liner to protect from the road salt. We might add some more protection film. Our replacement tires pick up stones in the thread on gravel roads, and kick it out when back on the highway.
For more shade, we're adding 3M Crystalline Window Film to the cab side windows and the coach door.
Engine Add Ons
As we found out when researching, the Ram has heated battery blankets. Since cold kills cranking power, these should help starting in the cold. Since we need to have power for the block heater, adding battery blankets isn't a big deal. We found all sorts of engine heater stuff at Kats. We built an outside RV outlet and added a second 15amp GFI. We have a thermostatically controlled outlet, so it will turn on the block heater and battery blankets when it's cold if needed.
One option that we lost with the LT trim package on the truck is the remote starter -- it's an option with the LTZ package, but that included lots that we didn't need or would get ripped out. We started to research remote starters -- need one that can monitor the glow plug to know when to start the diesel. And we were trying to figure out how to link it to the High Idle switch. We asked at the dealership when we picked up the truck about recommendations. According to our build sheet, the truck was already prewired for remote start. All we needed was new key fobs with the extra start button, and they reprogrammed the computer, and we have factory remote start!
We also added an Edge Insight CTS monitor/digital gauge display (83830). It plugs into the OBDII port and let's us monitor lots of things, including DEF level, DPF regen, ...
Husky Liners floor mats for the front P/N 5118x (we didn't order any floor mats with the truck). We needed something pretty substantial to collect snow slop. We had to go with the Husky team, vs. the WeatherTech mats. But magically the truck appeared with floor mats, which are pretty nice, so now we have two sets. The factory mats are "slippery" underfoot, so they are now our backup mats.
GTCover MicroFiber seat covers for some protection.
A front window shade from Eclipse Sun Shades (vs. Covertech or WeatherTech). But they don't provide any thermal insulation, so we're looking for alternatives. Meanwhile we've had a local boat cover builder make a custom cover that goes on the outside, wrapping all the side and front windows.
Upshade window screens on all the cab windows for more heat control for the dogs.
A Wondergel double gel seat cushion; extra height to see out the back better. Since replace by the larger ultra double gel.
We wanted to get some overhead grab bars added inside the cab, but can't seem to find a way to mount them.
Since we took out the center console, we added some more cup holders and a storage bin between the seats.
One thing you might notice in the truck order is that we got all season and not all terrain tires -- all season for a 4x4 off road?. Seems like what you get from the factory for the Chevy might be General, Bridgestone or Michelin tires. These manufacturers' all terrain tires are quite different. Not wanting to get tires that aren't good in the snow, we opted to get basic tires and then change them as soon as the truck arrived (we went direct from the dealership to our local tire shop). We didn't want to change to 20" wheels, no need to raise the Tiger another inch.
The stock tires are LT265/70R18E. Our local tire shop said this is a new size and there aren't a lot of options. But a LT275 fits (the tire shop wanted to try one to make sure). We picked the Jetzon Trailcutter 275/70R/18E (made by Cooper Tires). We had similar Jetzon tires on the Ram pickup and now on the Highlander, and they are doing great, not too aggressive, and not too noisy on the highway. But they do pick up stones. We've gotten good wear -- 46K miles in three years. We thought about something different like the Nitto Terra Grapler G2 when we needed new tires (the Nitto's are rated at 4000+#'s, the Jetzon at 3600+#'s). Given our great experience with the Jetzon we stayed with them.
We need air for the dog scooter and rig tires, in addition to air for the truck tires. A small impact wrench is on the tool list.
We decided to get a Viair 450P portable air compressor (P/N 45043). It gives us the power connector and air hose. Its the same as one of the permanent mounted units, so we can mount it later and add an air tank if we decide that's the better option. This model has a 100% duty cycle, so it can run tools if needed or switch to air bag suspension. We've got basic fittings, tire inflator, and an impact wrench (see below).
Since the suspension upgrade adds a permanent compressor and tank, we no longer need the portable compressor. We did add an air chuck so we can get air for tools and tires anytime.
Shore Connections and RV Equipment
Our list of shore connectors and equipment includes:
25' 30 Amp 10/3 extension power cord (two).
50' 30 Amp 10/3 extension power cord.
10' 30 Amp 10/3 extension power cord (lives at home for permanent shore power -- we put in a RV park outlet where we park).
25' 15 Amp extension cord (general use).
Short (3', 4') extension cord (general use).
30 Amp female - 15 Amp male adapter plug and pigtail (plug into a 15A outlet).
50 Amp male - 30 Amp female pigtail (plug into a 50A outlet).
Farm Innovators Thermostatically Controlled Outlet (TC2 & TC3).
Apex 8602-25 25' 5/8" potable water hose (two, one typically lives at home)
Valterra A01-1122VP lead free water pressure regulator.
Valterrra A01-0031VP tank fill.
Culligan RV800 water hose water filter.
Apex 8695-25 25' 5/8" rubber (all weather) gray water hose.
Bon Aire HN10AL hose nozzle.
Flojet 18555-000 DC macerator pump (with exterior 12V 20A outlet from Provan during the build).
25' 1" drain hose for home dumping from the macerator pump (with 3/4" adapter).
25' coax cable.
A 1/2" male to 3/4" female connector for the low point drains, to connect a garden gray hose for drainage.
Camco 36143 brass blow out plug connector.
Tri-Lynx wheel chocks.
Tri-Lynx leveling blocks (2 sets).
Maxtrax extraction ladders (1 set).
Ceramic heater (one large, one small -- good for cool nights when you have shore power).
YETI 50q cooler.
SKB boxes for storage on the rear carrier.
Assorted storage boxes and bins.
CREE 40450 LED camp light (plus we have head lamps for the dogs).
Aluminet Shade Cloth (dog shade).
Kijaro Camping Chairs (2).
Our tool and repair kit includes:
6 ton hydraulic bottle jack.
Heavy duty jumper cables (25' 2 gage copper).
Tow/recovery strap (3" x 30', 30,000#).
Safety triangles (from my '73 GMC pickup -- standard equipment back then)
PowerFlair LED Flairs.
Impact wrench (1/2" drive).
Air Hose (25' and 3').
Air Blow Gun.
Air Pressure Gauge.
SAE 1/2" drive impact sockets (7/16", 1/2", 9/16", 5/8", 11/16", 3/4", 13/16", 7/8", 15/16", 1", 1-1/16", 1-1/8", 1-1/4").
Metric 1/2" impact sockets (10mm, 11mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, 17mm, 18mm, 19mm, 21mm, 22mm, 26mm & 27mm).
Flex head 1/2" ratchet drive -- use with the impact sockets.
Drive extension (5").
Square bit socket (#2).
SAE Flex head combo ratcheting wrenches (5/16, 11/32, 3/8", 7/16", 1/2", 9/16", 5/8", 11/16", 3/4", 13/16", 7/8", 15/16", 1", 1-1/16", 1-1/8", 1-1/4").
Metric Flex head combo ratcheting wrenches (8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, 17mm, 18mm & 19mm).
Pilers (10" & 9" Channel Lock, 8" long nose, 7" side cutter, 6" slip joint).
Square recess screw drivers (#0, #1, #2, #4) -- essential for working on the Tiger.
Slotted screw drivers (1/4" x 1-1/2", 3/16" x 6", 1/4" x 4", 1/4" x 6", 5/16" x 6", 3/8" x 8").
Phillips screw drivers (#0 x 2-1/2", #1 x 3", #1 6", #2 x 1-1/2", #2 x 4" with Bolster, #3 x 6").
Precision screw drivers (0-point & 1-point Phillips and 1.4mm, 2.0mm, 2.4mm & 3.0mm slotted).
Hex wrench set (1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm & 8mm).
Wire strippers (5").
Putty knife/ razor blade scrapers.
Compact 10" hacksaw (with spare blades).
Files (flat, rat tail).
16' tape measure.
Rubber mallet -- white (16oz).
Regular hammer (8 oz).
Hand Chain Saw.
Tool wraps and bags.
In the coach:
Multi tool - Leatherman.
Fenix TK21 LED flashlight (one coach, one cab).
First Aid kit (kit, burn gel, clotting sponge, paper shower).
Spare batteries (AAA, AA, 9v -- Energizer Ultimate Lithium for cold).
Butane lighter (when the HW does light).
Extras and Supplies:
Keeper Marine SS bungee cords (assorted lengths).
Nite Ize rubber twist ties (assorted lengths).
Macs Tie Downs (6', 8', 10').
Tape (3M 33 and 35 electrical tape, 3M 3903 vinyl tape, 3M 2245 heavy duty external duct tape, teflon tape, silicon rescue tape).
Lublicant & liquids (Fluid Film, WD40, Lock Lub, Goo Off, Marine silcone sealant, electrical contact grease)
Spare fuses (coach and truck).
Anderson Powerpole electrical connectors (used for CB, rear light wiring).
Repair hardware (SS nuts, bolts, screws, washers, SS wire ties, UV wire ties, SS tie wire, AL tie wire).
Collapsable aluminum snow shovel.
Shurhold squeegie, 10" soft brush, swivel pad and lambs wool cover and telescoping handle.
Keyed alike ABUS 70IB/45 KA Blue B all weather series 70 pad locks.
Masterlock lock cables (6' and 8').
Deadbolt keyed alike hitch pins.
Vinyl Coated Polyester tarp.
Micro fiber towels.
Gloves (work, latex, Northflex NF11HD cold weather).
Trasharoo spare tire trash (storage) bag.
We got almost all of our tools, shore connectors, electronics and kitchen stuff from Amazon.
Maps and Guides
Besides the GPS, we have:
Rand McNally Large Scale US Atlas.
Map Art Canadian Back Road Atlas.
The Next Exit (we get a new one every couple years).
National Park Pass.
Blue Beacon Truck Wash App.
Allstays Camp and RV App.
Milepost (to get before a trip to Alaska).
Most of this is scattered through the page, but here's what we did for transporting the dogs. As you can see, it's important to keep them cool in warm weather, keep them safe, and carry all their gear.
Keep the Tiger A/C, deleting it was never a consideration.
Outdoor shower to wash the mud off them and us, for use in warm weather only.
Awnings on both sides so we can park anywhere and have some shade for the dogs.
Roof fan cover so we can run it in the rain.
Fantastic Endless Breeze portable fans (2). The same fan as in the roof, but portable for circulating air through the coach.
Extra 12v outlets so we can put fans in the coach or cab rear.
D rings in the floor so we can tie down stuff.
Exterior lights all around.
Cab Window deflectors so we can keep windows open a bit in the rain.
Upshade window screens on all the cab windows for more heat control for the dogs.
Aluminet Shade Cloth (hang from awnings).
Outriggers for the front and rear bumpers for drop cables.
Custom dog crate in the crew cab area, configurable for up to 3 dogs.
Hooks for leashes and harnesses.
Custom rear carrier for the scooter, rig or sled.
Computer Power and Wiring
The USB, computer and power cabling required several steps:
Drill a hole for a cable grommet in the bottom of the front cabinet.
Run Coax from the antenna box to the surge protector, and then to the USB TV tuner (using angle coax connectors).
Run USB cable from tuner to a USB hub.
Mount the USB TV tuner and hub inside the front cabinet.
Mount USB speakers under the cabinet on the front wall.
Run USB cable from the speakers to the hub in the cabinet.
Run a USB extension cable from the hub out through the grommet for the computer connection.
Mount the modem on the front wall.
Run the modem power cable through the grommet to the strip outlet.
Run a 2' 16AWG extension cord from the strip outlet out through the grommet, and add a Y liberator (provides 2 plugs outside the cabinet for computers or the crock pot).
Put all the wires in the coach from the grommet down in split wire loom.
Run an extension cord from the liberator around the dog crate to the front of the cab (charging phones from a dedicated charger is faster than the built in cab USB).
Mount the 5 port USB charger under the front cabinet.
Run a 20' USB cable to the opposite corner of the bed.
After we picked up the Tiger, we started on our list of "little things" as further customization over the years (probably missed some).
Install the hood ornament.
Mount the CB and antenna. The CB is on the dog crate and wired with a PowerPole.
Mount the front cab shades (currently looking for alternatives to the Eclipse shades as they don't provide a lot of reflectivity). We did get a custom outside window cover.
Put on the bumper guides.
Put bright reflective tape on the end of the outriggers and the rear carrier.
Install cabling for the USB TV (USB cables, hub, coax, speaker).
Add a Water Hog floor mat inside the coach door (18"x27" fits perfectly).
Add a Conair PTM1 teak mat in the bathroom (just fits).
Cover the exterior steps with pads (use SS wire ties to attach).
Add a liner to the front of the Aluminess bumper to keep the rain and snow out of the tool box.
Put a sun roof wind deflector on top of the rear window to shed some of the rain.
Configure the rear carrier with mounts for the rig, sled, storage box, cooler, jerry cans, ....
Change the original Provan rear storage box to a custom Aluminess generator box with raised rails.
Change the backup monitor mount to a PanaVise 797-12 flexible/gooseneck to raise it (requires different mounting holes).
Change the cover plate (to gray) on the inverter outlet so we know which is which.
Label the various switches and outlets.
Put screens over the fridge, HW and furnace vents to keep bugs out.
Add screen door cross bar (middle and top).
Add Moen handicap grab bars (24" - R7424, 36" - R7436) under the rear and passenger side top cabinets to hang wet clothes on.
Install an indoor/outdoor thermometer in the coach.
Install a remote read thermometer in the fridge.
Install a Timex 128 LED clock (on inverter power; couldn't find 12V LED, wanted LED to read in the dark).
Add covers over the propane detector and holding tank heater switches to keep the dogs from bumping them.
Add truck mud flaps in front of the rear tires (mud gets kicked up on the propane tank and sewer line holder). The bottoms are tied so they don't sail into the tires.
Change the exterior lights to use LED bulbs.
Change the coach porch door light to an amber lens cover.
Change the range hood light and over sink light to LED.
Put a swivel aerator on the sink faucet.
Install a paper towel holder.
Install a white board on one of the cabinet doors.
Install additional cup holders on the console box (considering re-installing the console since we can't easily get into the rear with the large dog crate).
Install a 2 way "T" level on the console box.
Install levels on the right rear exterior corner of the coach.
Change the bath toilet paper holder to a Sail Systems covered toilet paper holder to keep TP dry.
Build a custom dog crate. It takes the entire crew cab area (needs to be assembled in place). Can be configured for up to 3 dogs, storage ledge on top. Dogs can be loaded from the coach, or in the ends from the crew cab doors.
Add a second fire extinguisher to the front of the dog crate, drivers side.
Build a small riser for the first step so they are all equal rise.
Add Upshade window screens to the cab windows.
Add covers to hitch receivers.
Add Rigid Dually LED Marine lights on rear bumper -- wired into backup lights so we can see better in backing up in the dark (can be switched on as work lights).
Cut reflective bubble wrap for all windows as winter insulation.
Mount a sewer line holder on the rear bumper (6" PVC fence post).
Route inverter power from the surge protector to the front (for faster charging of devices).
Insulate the inside back of the outdoor shower.
Insulate the power box and other openings.
Install Hunter 42999B digital thermostat (non functional with Propex furnace).
Change tank drain cap to Vaterra F02-3106BK with grey water hose connector.
Install HOTT ROD HW heater element.
Install Oxygenics shower head and stainless hose.
Install Oxygenics stainless hose on exterior shower.
Install grab bar in the shower.
Replace refrigerator door panel with stainless steel panel.
Install hypervent under mattress.
Put a cage (plastic box) over the water pump to keep things off it.
Install Buell Air Horns on the cab (12", #1062, 15", #1063).
Replace Cooktop Fan (quiet TriCool 200mm box fan).
Install Poron (polyurethane open cell) padding on top and inside of rear box.
Suspension Upgrade (2013)
After almost two years and 30K miles the ride was becoming annoying, even the dogs were complaining when we hit bumps. So we did a major suspension upgrade.
Changes where better shocks, front end kit (Cognitos) and 4-link full air suspension (Kelderman) in the rear. We considered just air helper bags instead of the Sumo Springs or additional spring leafs (or a whole new leaf pack), but consensus was that our Bengal is overloaded for the stock suspension and there is no easy fix. Doing just air bags in the back and not back and front was a major cost savings.
Our local monster truck place did the install, after multiple conversations with the folks at Cognitos and Kelderman to get the parts right mix for our use -- 90% on road, mostly Fall, Winter, Spring travel, so snow, plus some off road travel.
Shocks: Fox Dual Reservoir shocks front (Fox 980-24-964) and rear (Fox 980-24-955). Everyone told us that if you want to do only one thing to the suspension, these shocks are it.
Front: Cognito leveling kit: upper control arms (UCAK100051), pitman/idler (PISK3008), shock extenders (SEK-2011-8-1), torsion keys (TBAK8-11) and sway bar.
Rear: Kelderman 4 link active air suspension. The springs and hangers are cut off to install -- a pain to do after the fact since the instructions begin with "remove pickup bed". Has air compressor with air dryer installed behind the coach steps, air tank under the cab inside the frame rail. Basic controls, but the Tiger now self levels side-to-side.
After the install is done it requires a "full alignment" of both axles -- you need to go to a commercial truck place to find equipment big enough to get the entire Tiger on.
Overall the ride is much nicer and smoother. You hear bumps, but don't feel them. Sway in turns is reduced -- you can take a turn a high speed at about 10MPH faster without feeling the sway. The air compressor kicks in on bad turns, but otherwise is quite. The Tiger will sit for several days without leaking air in the bags. You can dump the air bags to lower the rear by several inches.
The tires are now very close to the rear mud flaps, so bigger tires might no fit, but the weak point in the suspension is probably the axles now, not tires.
New DuraFlap CF 8 07 Plus (14 x 22) front mud flaps are a better fit for the lift and tires.
The AMP Power Steps make getting and out easier, since the front is now lifted a bit.
Part of the install included an air chuck for tools. And air horns.
Power and Furnace Upgrade (2014).
Furnace: The noise and air blasting from the Suburban furnace is one of its major drawbacks. We replaced it with a Propex HS2800. The HS2800 puts out a little less heat than the Suburban, but is very quiet (less noise than the Fantastic fan), uses less power and has a fan only mode. A digital thermostat is not currently an option.
Lights: All the clearance and rear lights have been switched to LED. Rain was infiltrating the rear lights causing them to blow out; the clearance light bulbs kept getting loose. Except for the front of the truck, all the lights are now LED.
Power: We upgraded to the Blue Sea controller and heavier wiring that is now standard. The battery banks can be linked; faster charging; the coach batteries can jump start the truck.
XM Antenna: New Tram XM antenna on the coach roof (little button antenna drops signal in northern latitudes).
To Do List
The "To Do" list includes deciding where to put more thermal (e.g., floor) and sound insulation (e.g., generator box). For decoration we want mountain/snow scene decals for the sides of the white fiberglass).
Additionally, we want to put a deflector over the backup camera to help keep some water off when it's raining.
We may change the coach screens to mosquito net screens.
And we're still working on better interior dog attachment points in the rear of the coach and better storage organization in the cabinets.
Changing the fuel tank to a Titan 60 gal tank would give us more range (an Aero tank requires a trip to CA to install), but it's a lot of work to retrofit.
We're carefully watching the effects of PA road salt and may add more underbody protection.