Winnebago table Mk.3 (freestanding)

Another long term project that I think is possibly at a conclusion. The hunt had been on for a table solution that doesn’t require taking part of the bed (I like to sleep in . . . .). It seemed a waste to have this table in the van that couldn’t be used outside of the van.

My Mk2 solution was to replace the old single leg with two off the shelf fold down table legs. These could be used either in the normal way in the van or in combination with some bolt on legs.

I am a fan of the 15mm rod system that gets used for video gear. I discovered it years ago when i used them to make a motorbike stand!

For Mk.2 I created a pair of legs using 2 x 400mm +300mm rods. I added bracing with two 200mm rods and the end caps from the 400mm rods. The legs have generic 15mm rubber stoppers/feet. To start with I used Smallrig tube clamps mounted to a carbon fibre interface plate and mounted to the table.

The end result wasn’t entirely stable, primarily due to the off the peg legs which had way too much side to side movement. I decided that there was mileage in the original idea and worked on MK3. The clamps I had used had a very small contact patch so had movement in them too, so I looked for a better clamp.

I found what looked like a more stable mount in the Smallrig dual clamp (1943), which is designed to take a dual rod but I didn’t let that small detail bother me. It seemed to offer a flat mount and 3 mounting points. When it arrived I found that one mounting point has a recess, so I found 2mm washers to space that out. Another washer to fit in the tube socket for another bolt and hacksaw the dual mount in half! Mounted to the table with bolts and structural adhesive and it seemed more stable but the other end was still wobbly so I ordered up another set of rods and another two dual mounts.

The end result, I put 3 leg mounts on one end, so I can use either a single or dual leg in the van or 4 legs out of the van. 700mm legs with 400/300mm rods joined. Sockets from 1943 clamps cut in half and fitted with stainless knurled m5 knob.

Two side bracing bars from 2 x 200mm rods and Smallrig 1104 90 degree brackets. The 1104 brackets have one of the two bolts replaced with an allen key bolt so that only the clamp for the upright is adjustable. Mounting clamps for all rods fitted to the underside of the table.

Another Eurovan new switch plate.

A lot of the eurovan blogs out there end up having a new switch plate of some sort! Times change and we need new fuctions. After getting mine, I originally modified the original by cutting in a couple of switches for the fridge and fitting 12V, USB chargning and a switch in place of the redundant 110v outlets.

My issue with this set up was primarilly that the USB and 12v cables were by the opening part of the fridge door, which always lead to cables trapped in the door. I could have re-hinged the door but the door was correct as the passenger could open it and get at drinks while we were moving. I also didn’t have a switch setup for my router (which lives under the sink)

The secondary issue is that in these coronavirus times the van is my shed office. To plug in my laptop I currently have to plug in USB-C into a modified cigarette lighter unit and plug that into my 12v outlets. It is not only a bit ungainly but I also keep running out of outlets on this side of the van (using another for wifi link and another for a NUC). I wanted to install a modified USB-C adapter

I started CADing up the plate probably 2 years ago and it got re-picked up every now and again. Everytime slightly different. I wanted to get a proffesionally made plate from the cad made out of metal but getting someone to do it was problematic. In the end I gave up. Something composite and home made is a bit more in keeping with the van anyway!

Made some carbon fibre plate and transfered all the measurements from my cad to the plate by hand. Took my time and tried to get all the holes as accurate as possible with a handheld drill and a dremel. Should really use a pillar drill but I have too many tools for my flat as it is! One of the nice things of composites is they are a lot easier to cut than metal.

Not sure what everyone else finds but my Winnebago framework is far from square. Plate had to be taller on the left to the right. My plate also has a straight line from one side to the other, which shows the bow in the metal work! Its also not flat as they never bothered to sand down the welds. . .

Left to right my plate ends up with

  • 2 x 12v direct power outlets on Lemo 1B
  • Switched Dual USB A power outlets with volt meter. Dual USB-C outlets with top delivering 30w for laptops, lower 18w for phones etc. (Its a pass through connector connected to an Anker charger modified to convert from cigarette lighter to cable input)
  • Gap for future sockets
  • Locking power switch for van 4G wifi router and associated bits
  • Fridge power
  • Livello 9-LED LPG monitor
  • Stock test switch
  • Stock levels board but with LED holes for water only
  • Water pump switch

I was tempted to get rid of the factory meters completly but seemed silly to chuck it away when i would have to recreate its functions for the water. The voltage and LPG are now hidden away as they serve no function any more.

Winnebago Gas struts in EU

I struggled to find all this info, so hopefully this will help others

Pop Top Struts

Mine was fitted with Nitrolift GS10-22-300-350. This tells you it has 10mm shaft, 300mm stroke and a 350mm body with a 22mm body diameter. It does not tell you about the rod ends or the force. The ends are 13mm ball sockets (which on nitrolift fit an M8 thread). The length of the ball sockets is 30mm from end to ball centre. In the UK SGS sell these and the socket is code B14.

Choosing a force. . .

What I found is that the stock seems to be 100lbf (444N). Heavy duty ones are sold at 110lbf (490N) and 120lbf (533N).

First off I got a standard which was dumb as I have solar on the roof. I had no idea what was fitted to my van initially and they were stronger than 444N.

I probably have about 10kg on my roof so second attempt was a 500N (112lbf). This works out much better but they still struggle to hold in the partially open state. I would go for 533N at least next time.

There are YouTube videos that show how to compress the struts with a ratchet strap and a prussic loop (loop of rope) this is really easy to do. Propping the roof is the bit that takes the longest (just finding something a good length). I used some camera rods with some books to space it all out.

Kitchen unit struts

The original struts had markings:

SPD-4900-40A

Google says this is a 40lbf (178N) strut with a 2″stroke- length between 5.5″ and 7.5″ (140-190mm). Think its 10mm ball ends, 6mm rod diameter, note that length includes ball ends.

At the time I got the van the struts had completly failed and I couldn’t find a direct replacement. I went for some a little shorter that were easily available on ebay and moved the mounting points. These were 80N small kitchen struts. They kept the lid open (apart from on a slope).

Eventually I put a magnetic knife block on the top so up-rated the struts and went back to the longer length.

I can’t find a UK 51mm stroke unit. Closest is under or over (40 , 60mm). Note that lengths of nitrolift units don’t include the ends.

Nitrolift GS6-15-60-100 rated at 160N (160mm long, 60mm stroke)

Plastic 10mm M6 ball end – 18mm length end to cetre. (complete length 196mm)

I managed to install these with the brackets back in the original hole. Took a bit of force to get them on due to the extra lenght. Work fine now, top does not raise by itself but will hold at any opening.

The knife block actually holds the knifes even over bumps etc. The block I bought wasn’t up to the job so I bought some Neodymium magnets of the same size, glued them on top of the existing cheap ferrite magnets and added spacers.

Roof Vent

Another of the Winnebago Eurovan issues. . .

Like many others I had issues with a broken roof vent. When I got it, the roof leaked like a sieve and the mounting points for the middle chair used to fill up with water. Inspection showed many issues. The hinges had rusted completly through in some places, so it didn’t shut at the front. The latch at the back was also repaired and so it didn’t shut at the back properly either.

First thing was to fix the hinges

At this point it was kind of usable, but still leaked, just at more managable level. It still had to be taped shut most of the time, which was a pain. Sometimes would start coming off driving, couldn’t open without removing etc. etc.

I hunted for a replacement. Tried everywhere to find something of the same footprint without luck. I had seen posts from others where they had fit larger, RV style hatches. I even had one delivered but returned it because it was a) really plasticy and flimsy (not that the original is sturdy) b) would add about 100mm which further limits what carparks I can get into.

There are things that are nice about the original vent. Its lightweight (I measured at 1.3kg with trim)and its low profile at about 20-25mm high.

Roll forward a year and I found a new contender. The Lewmar Low Profile marine hatch, size 20. This is roughly the same size, claims a 25mm height (which is only partly true as it doesn’t shut flat by design) and has a stated 2.3kg weight. It is much sturdier than the old one and has a 8mm thick acrylic top. I am sure you also hear the difference in sound transmission but perhaps I imagine it. It has a nice locking position partially open and then a friction hinge that holds it at any position (it goes a fully flat). It has a tinted glass so lets more light into the van (both a good and bad thing!)

Due to the thickness of the trim on the old one, the Lewmar actually presents more open area but its thinner, to such a degree that the bolt holes are not covered by the roof plastic, as such it takes an interface plate to mount it.

First was to take the old one out, much easier than I expected, gentle pull and out it came (remove internal trim first)

First created a temporary wooden interface plate out of scrap ply. It was basically the same size as the old vent with a cutout for the new. It allowed me to drill the 4 holes in the roof and do a test fit. It was a good idea as I decided it was too small, made it about a 10mm bigger on front and back to give a reasonable bonding surface. The original vent had only 10mm or so.

The final plate, constructed out of carbon fibre at the larger size. It is bolted on left and right and bonded all the way around to the PSA roof using Plexus MA310 structural adhesive. The vent is then stuck and bolted to the interface plate using Sikaflex.

My struts for holding the roof up are currently at 500N (112lbf) which work fine for opening the roof but still struggle at holding it open at the safety strap height.

2020 update, finally made an internal trim for it. Basically an interference fit and a carbon fibre plate as normal.

A little review of the Winnebago Eurovan

A lot is said of the Winnebago eurovan and I want to address a few bits of it. There are a lot of things that I think Winnebago did well and lots which is not so good.

The gas (LPG) tank

Am

The roof

-Much hated there is lots wrong but there are also some really good points.

-Canvas tent

Probably as much the age of the van as anything else but I really like having a canvas as opposed to a nylon tent. It’s the same with real tents, canvas is great because it breaths but awful because its heavy (if your hiking). Works better to me than a modern tent.

Windows in the canvas tent

I don’t know why no-one else seems to get this right. Big windows that open to reveal a mosquito net beneath. Van lights attract bugs, this seems like a no-brainier. Unfortunately if you look at lots of modern pop-top tents they dont have this instead having a useless see-through layer under the window (I suppose they allow light not wind but getting air in is also useful).

The 3 big windows are also surprisingly not common.

The roof vent also seems like a nice idea but poorly implemented. I looked to swap for another modern vent but they are all 100m high. The original one is more a sunroof type vent, no extra height and this is really important to me.

Yes, the actual plastic roof is poorly done. I remain unconvinced whether elevating only the van and not the cab is the best idea. Mine is craceds as many are. They don’t latch down nicely.

Insulation (or lack therof)

It seems there are some real differences between how the brits and the yanks build campervans. In the UK, insulating a van is something that is done first, everything has insulation. Aircon and heating? Much less common. Yanks seem to be the other way around. I was always planning on having a heater and it is seriously useful. My van actually has broken cab heating, so the rear heater is actually useful for warming the van up generally too!

The aircon has been a nightmare but at times really useful.

Build quality (or lack thereof)

The van is put together with metal self-tapping screws. No threaded inserts etc. If something is bolted through a surface then the bolt on the other side is not captive. If it goes through the floorpan, it takes two people to remove a bolt, one either side. No bolts have Mylar inserts when they should.

Lots of bolts have self tapping into plastic (heating vents etc) which just fails.

Wiring

This really does follow the build section. The wiring additions are poorly done with no proper colour coding (black, green or purple are the colours). Tracing wiring is very diffult and mine isn’t wired as per the winnebago diagram (similar but clearly varied over the years slightly.

Off grid capability

The LPG tank is awesome. Can still travel on the Eurostar. Filling with gas is super cheap and lasts ages (even in winter). No issues with different bottles in other countries. If really going to need to top up abroad bring LPG adapters. Building an off-grid setup today, solar and compressor fridges are where most of us go but this wasn’t an option back then.

The tank is kind of dangerous today. Very easy to over fill even if you follow the (misleading) eurovan manual. Apparently there were warnings on the tank at one point. New tanks stop filling automatically, these old ones do not.  I am not sure its possible to actually fill it up the way intended in a petrol station (involves opening an overflow valve).  I watch the meter now (which I had to replace).

Bed

Easy to remove, sliding rock& roll bed!  Hits a lot of points for flexibility, even if its not the best implemented in the world.  I didn’t realise until I had the van that the bed just rolls forward and out on wheels!  Not done it yet but makes putting a motorbike in the back a possibilitu

Cupboards

much hated and really not complete.  The rear wardrobe has dual sliding doors and a door always seems to be in your way.  Wardrobe good for hanging a few small bits only.  See build threads

Middle lower cupboard is deep but awkward

middle bathroom cupboard has no shelves.

Front cupboard doesnt open if the bed is down.