Navion Mods

This page is devoted to the modifications on our Navion 24J 09

The significant modifications  (other than factory options) that we made on our Navion include:

  • wireless cloud (mobile router, aircard and exterior antenna)
  • Sanicon solution, and
  • “unlimited”, constant temperature hot water.

After the maiden trip, we found some irritating features that we changed.  These include:

  • Separating the bed from the storage
  • Adding access to the under-bed storage
  • Adding privacy between the cab and the coach
  • Other minor but useful “stuff”

A Wireless Movable Cloud

A priority requirement for Laura and I is that both of us want to be able to sit across from each other at the dinette and be working work on our email, blogs or whatever as the mood hits us regardless of where we are with our NJ09. It is also a plus to be motoring along and just reach for the laptop and check out an attraction that was just signed along the highway. This means a couple of things: Some sort of wireless hot spot “cloud” traveling with us and good wireless broadband reception.

What we selected was a combination of a Verizon 727 USB air card, a 350 Cradlepoint travel router, and a Wilson RV/trucker external antenna. The Verizon air card was selected because it seemed to have the best coverage based on a search sources rating coverage in the US plus we already had a Verizon wireless account. The Cradlepoint 350 router is not the newest model but compact, had a 12V adapter, and had good reviews. The Wilson antenna was a sturdy, through-the-roof antenna that users seemed to like.

Wilson RV Antenna

Wilson RV Antenna

Considerable thought was given to also using a Wilson signal amplifier. In the end, the added $300 plus the advice of an installer to wait and add it later, suggested we wait. We did test the setup on a couple of car trips before picking up the Navion. Everything seemed to work just fine so we skipped the amplifier.

We purchased a new Navion at Lewis RV in Dayton Ohio but were living in Wisconsin. We wanted to pick up the rig and head immediately out on a 30 day trip. Therefore we decided that Lewis RV do the installation for all modifications. It was a good choice.

A fused 20 amp (10 gauge) line was run from the chassis battery to the wiring cabinet above the kitchen sink. The microwave was temporarily removed to provide access to the wiring chase so that the wire is totally buried in the wall. A switch was installed to feed to power to two 12V receptacles and the satellite 12V DirecTV receiver (another project). The antenna was mounted through the roof directly above the microwave so that the installation is totally concealed from the inside of the rig. The router was attached to the back of the cabinet with Velcro. The air card was inserted into the router and the antenna wire attached with the appropriate lead wire. The 12V power supply for the router was plugged into one of the 12V receptacles and the installation is complete.

Mobile Router Installation

The second 12V receptacle provides a convenient location to charge things like cell phones.

The setup was seamless.  The router has security protection like any household wireless router and was setup with WEP security.  Once you have activated the air card while it is inserted into a USB port of a laptop, it can be inserted into the router with not other setup.  Your do need to work with Verizon to get the air card to work properly as the outgoing mail server for your email program..  It needs a Verizon user name and password.  That took some time as we failed to communicated on the construct of the user name but that was sorted out on the second call.

Now for the results.  We have been at some fairly remote campsites in OH, TN, and GA and the speed is amazingly fast.  In fact, there have been places where we had extremely poor cellphone service (dropped calls) yet the internet access has been reasonable; a bit slower than normal but adequate.

The SaniCon Solution

Having never been in a real RV (one that is NOT sitting in a RV sales lot) until we drove our Navion off the lot at Lewis RV in Dayton, there were many things about RVs that we were completely ignorant of (and still are!).  That said, we owned boats for 30 years including ones where we live aboard for weeks.  So, we do have lots of experience with blackwater tanks, inverters, large diesel generators and the like.  But, marine systems can be different than RV systems….and blackwater practices ARE different.

“More like a pit toilet than a marine toilet” said the salesman when asked how the toilet operated. “How do I pump the blackwater tank?” “Just attach the hose, open the blackwater tank valve, and then flush the hose with the grey water tank” replied the salesman as he pointed to a couple of valves on the show room coach.  I have had enough boating blackwater episodes to know there were lots more I needed to know about handling blackwater from an RV.

Cutting this story short, I did find out about 3″ hoses and storage tubes and gloves and bleach that are common knowledge to the RV world.  Frankly I think you are all too tolerant of this practice and I decided to stick to the approach used in the marine world.  That is, grind it up into slurry and pump it out using a small, permanently attached hose with an end that seals up when done.  Pump it where ever you want…uphill, downhill, sideways and never worry about cleaning the hose when done.

There are different systems that you can use. I picked a SaniCon system because it is small and has a nice stretchy hose that takes little storage but reaches 20 feet.  The trick was how to shoehorn the unit into the small compartment where the blackwater/greywater valves are.  To add to the difficulty, I was in WI and the rig was in OH.  I got a peek at a 08 View that I assumed was the same….wrong.  From that, I dreamed up a couple of possibilities, made some custom parts for each, and headed down to Lewis RV in Dayton with the parts.

Now the service guys at Lewis RV are good listeners AND magicians.  They patiently listened to the options I presented, looked at the parts and then came up with a new plan that was much better that any of mine.  I then disappeared for a bit and , presto, a wonderful installation of a SaniCon in a 09 Navion 24J.  Here is what they did.

Overview of the Installation

Overview of the Installation

I gave them a SaniCon model 5800-6004 which has a bayonet twist-on connection, an attached switch,  grey water bypass, and the nice little stretchy hose.  I also gave them some 4″ plumbing parts and lots of other custom plumbing parts that they threw away.  The first thing they did was to order a shorter T connection that leads from the greywater and blackwater valve.  (Winnie in 2009 thought it would be nicer to extend the outlet further down out of the compartment, so the T was longer than the 08 View I was looking at.)  The final plan was to rotate the T 90 degrees so it exited not down toward the ground but toward the center of the rig.  Then, if the compartment was large enough (which it was not), the SaniCon could be just twisted on to the T.  The shorter T gave us some extra space but not enough.

Closeup of the Sanicon in the Extension

Closeup of the Sanicon in the Extension

Now the Lewis magicians extended the compartment by simply drilling a 4.5″ hole through the plastic tub (compartment), inserted a 4″ (ID) PVC threaded collar through the hole and glued a 4″ collar on the other side (the two pressed tightly together).  Then another  4″ PVC threaded collar was glued on the collar and a 4″ clean-out cap screwed in.  Presto!  The compartment with its new 4″ diameter extension now will take the SaniCon (see pictures).  Plus I can access the back of the SaniCon motor to unjam the pump if it ever jams simply by unscrewing the cleanout plug.  A Tornado was added to the blackwater tank to give an extra rinse.

The Extension Viewed From Underneath the Navion

The Extension Viewed From Underneath the Navion

Now, of course, there needs to be power brought to the SaniCon.  A 10 gauge circuit was brought from the battery leads at the converter (under the refrigerator) – fused, of course – to the compartment.  The switch/bracket was removed from the SaniCon, the bracket thrown away and the switch cut into the panel in the compartment right near the water pump switch. Neat!

To pump out, I simply unscrew the cap off the end of the wand, insert the “wand” into the pump-out station hole, open the blackwater valve, and turn on the pump.  But wait, there is another advantage of the installation.  After I pump the blackwater tank empty, I shut off the pump and open the greywater valve.  Half of the contents of the greywater tank rush into the blackwater tank cleaning it.  Close the greywater valve and pump the blackwater tank.  Repeat this process.  Then start process again the third time but this time do not pump the black water tank.  I have just “precharged” it with soapy water.  Pump the remaining water in the greywater tank, screw the cap back on the wand, give the wand a squirt of bleach solution (where it went into the “sewer” hole) and you are done.  No hoses to wash; no messy hoses to store; you do not even need gloves!

Oh, and one more advantage.  If I run out of greywater capacity (which I do before I run out of blackwater capacity), I just open both valves and the grey water flows into the blackwater tank until the levels are equal.

Now I realize that for many seasoned RVrs, developing specialized techniques for dumping the blackwater tank may be a source of pride.  But, I think I will wimp out and enjoy a sip of beer or maybe even wine while I listen to the SaniCon do its job – sort of speak.  Not everything in life needs to be experienced.

The Hot Water Solution

Showering on a boat or RV can be a bit of a challenge simply because the water heater is so small – 6 gallon on the Navion.  It is not just that you have only 6 gallon of 140 degree water but, more importantly, the tank is so short that the temperature of the water at the outlet can change significantly after you draw out just one gallon of water.

Your home water heater may have 4 to 5 feet of vertical separation between the inlet and outlet so there is little mixing between the cold water coming in at the bottom and the hot water leaving at the top.  In other words, there is a good thermal gradient between the inlet and outlet and the water temperature changes slowly as the water is withdrawn from the tank.

Our Navion water heater has only about 8 inches between the inlet and outlet.  As a result, as you start using water, the hot water temperature can change quickly as the inlet water mixes with the outlet water.  What this means in the shower is that you need to be constantly readjusting the mix of cold water and hot water as you shower.  Plus you must be careful not to get too much hot water at the beginning or you will burn yourself with 140 degree water.  Comfortable showering can be a challenge.

Some RVers have attempted to improve the situation by installing an adjustable thermostat and set the water heater temperature to a comfortable showing temperature.  That will keep you from being burned in the shower but really does not do anything to help control the water temperature coming from the heater.  Soon into the shower, the water will be colder than the temperature set.

The answer is really a thermo-mixing valve.  You set the outlet temperature and it takes water at whatever the temperature is coming from the water heater, adds the necessary cold water and gives you the temperature of water that you selected.  Of course, the water coming from the water heater must be equal or greater than the temperature set at the mixing valve for the valve to maintain the set temperature.  The output from a good mixing valve does not varying until the water from the water heater falls below the set temperature.

Now you jump into the shower, turn on the hot water and receive a steady temperature of water throughout your shower….assuming you do not totally exhaust the “hot” water in the water heater.  You never waste water trying to get the right temperature.  You end up having more “hot” water — mixing really hot with cold water as you shower.  One of the additions to the Navion before we drove it off the lot was to add a thermo-mixing valve.

We used a Honeywell-Sparco AM101-UT-1 – 3/4″ NPT union mixing valve.  The key is to get one that controls from 100-145 degrees and is threaded (NPT) so you can just screw it right into the water heater outlet and get connectors (thanks to Lewis RV!) to attach it to the Navion plastic plumbing.

Installation of Thermo-Mixing Valve

Installation of Thermo-Mixing Valve

After attaching it to the hot water outlet, what you do is cut in a T in the cold water line going into the water heater inlet and bring that to the cold water inlet in the valve, the mixed outlet is attached to the original hot water line.  The plumbing layout on the NJ09 is perfect to do this.   Oh and throw away the gaskets that come with the valve and buy some softer O-rings otherwise you will never get the connections tight.

You may want to cut the valve into the plumbing after the hot water T to the kitchen sink.  Then there would be 140 water to the sink and the tempered water to the bath.  I did not do that because the valve is quite heavy and did not have time to make some sort of mounting bracket to properly support the valve.  Mounting on the water heater eliminates the need to have the bracket.

In addition to the mixing valve, we also added a variable speed pump.  It is much quieter and eliminates much the cycling on and off that the stock pump does.

The mixing valve and the variable speed pump will vastly improve your shower experience.  We do back-to-back showers and never run out of hot water….being careful of course!  Plus the temperature is always constant.

Modifications After the Maiden Trip

After a maiden trip of a month, we praised the designers of the Navion 24J with a couple of exceptions.  At the end of the first trip, we stripped off all our stuff from Arvie and rolled up our sleeves.

Separating the Bed From the Storage

First on the list was correcting the most ridiculous feature one could ever design: a combination bike storage/primary sleeping area.  Sure.  The perfect two things to combine.  Take your mountain bike out on a muddy trail then throw it in with your silk sheets.  Oh, and split the mattress in two and put some reinforcing rods

Separating Bed From Storage

Separating Bed From Storage

in one half.  If that is not good enough, cut a big hole in the side of the primary sleeping area that you need to open whenever you put something into the best outside storage area.  Hello, Winnebago?

The Yahoo View/Navion group had several good suggestions and I used a modified version of one of the plans.  Basically, I built a frame for a plywood base under the open part underneath the bed.  Then covered the side opening with boat canvas material that snaps on the inside and is held tight at the bottom between a couple parts of the wood frame.  Hopefully, the picture explains what needs to be explained.  I wanted to replace the split mattress with a custom made one.  However, Laura had used a 1 1/2 inch thick memory foam pad over the split matress and did not want to give up a know quantity that met with her approval for an unknown one.  What works for her works for me.  Plus it IS her bed after all!

Adding Access to the Under-Bed Storage

The next irritating issue was the access to the best inside storage which is under the primary bed.  To get to it you

Under Bed Storage Access

Under Bed Storage Access

need to lift up the mattress.  So you just spent 30 minutes and two skinned knuckles getting the bed made and you realized that you used the last of the paper towels.  The replacement rolls are stored you know where.  Also I must admit that I tweaked my back while holding up the matress/cover with my head while digging through the storage.  Again a creative guy (Eric) on the Yahoo group provided the solution.   This time I copied it exactly.  You order some replacement doors/hardware for the cabinet over the sink and cut them into the curved front of the storage.  Perfect!  Looks like it came from the factory.

Adding Privacy Between the Cab and the Coach

The next mod is all mine.  I knew there would be a privacy issue with everyone being able to look through the cab into the coach area.  Before even picking up the Navion,  I ordered the outside canvas offered by the Sprinter Store in Oregon.  However when I went to take delivery of the Navion and do the initial modifications, I found out that Winnebago provided a privacy curtain for over the cab (OC) bed and a privacy curtain between the cab and the coach.  They are cumbersome to use; each having four snaps/hooks which fit in hard to reach places.  Plus you have to find places to store them when not in use.

Over Cab Privacy

Over Cab Privacy

I took a different approach.  Basically you either want to cover the mess in the over area or it is night and you want to block the view in through the cab so you can practice your comb-over or whatever. The immediate answer was a 7′ piece of 1/2″ half round which threads through the cloth loops of the OC privacy curtain.  Leave the two middle hooks fully functional to attach to the two middle metal loops.  Then add two pieces of cord one to each of to the two middle hooks and the two OUTSIDE metal loops with the cord running through the middle loops.  Now when you release the two hooks from the middle loops, the curtain drops down to just below where the ladder attaches (assume that the cord length is proper).  Presto.  You have a privacy curtain  between the cab and the coach.  So either the curtain is hiding all your (actually my) junk in the OC…no need to make the bed…or it is night and time for some privacy from the outside gawkers.

Privacy Between Cab and Coach

Privacy Between Cab and Coach

After some use, the 1/2″ half round turned out to be too droopy so I backed it up the a 1″ x 1/4″ trim piece.  Screw the two pieces together with the frabric loops between them (and the whole curtain properly spaced) and the curtain will stay properly spaced along the rod.  Once the rod is no longer droopy, you will have to put an extension on the metal loops where the two metal hooks attach when in the raised position.  I used another snap hook with a swivel eye.  Check out the picture and this may all make some sense.

Oh, also notice the “mechanism” in the OC….that inclined thing.  I snore.  That is the reason for his/her sleeping areas which used to be in separate wings of the house.  Tried lots of remedies including LAUP …. laser surgery.  Finally found out that if I sleep inclined, I do not snore.  So I have various types of “mechanisms” to create an incline to accomodate all types of sleeping arrangements.  Laura and I now can sleep in the same hotel room and in the same Navion.  For you snorers out there, try it.  It might work for you too.

Other Minor But Useful “Stuff”

Paper Holder

Paper Holder

Here is another simple thing that Laura came up with: a polished nickle towel holder from Lowes that matches the interior of the Navion.  Mounted by the door, it is convenient both inside and outside of the Navion.  Incredibly handy.

The blocks I cut for the maiden trip split by the end of the trip.  This time I glued/screwed 1/4″ plywood to the

New Blocks and Carrying Bag

New Blocks and Carrying Bag

bottom.  Also now store them in their own carrying bag (from Target for $10).

Also built a small shelf in the cabinet above the sink to hold the DirecTV receiver.  We use a TrakVision unit with a 12V DirecTV receiver.  Using a 12V system means that you do not need an inverter or a 110V source to watch Fox News.  Also, an in-motion unit means that you can

Shelf for DirecTV Receiver

Shelf for DirecTV Receiver

watch it while you drive….well, while someone else drives.  If I did the Navion over again, I probably would skip the satellite TV.  The satellite radio is more than enough to bring in the news.

Then, if I did it over again I would also skip the heat pump on the AC (a good portable electric heater is better), the in-line water filter (I filter all the water coming into the coach) and even the LP generator (I have not used it yet….which reminds me I need to exercise it for an hour just to keep it alive…plus I am toting all that weight around for nothing….I paid $3K for what???)

Finally A Real Bed

Laura was using a 1 1/2″ thick memory foam custom-cut pad over the split mattress.  However, it was not cutting it.  So FoamByMail got a call and now there is a real 6″ medium-firm foam mattress with cover in place of the two 1/2 mattresses. It did require reinforcing the 1/8″ plywood but a simple fix.

A Small Frame to Reinforce the Plywood

A Small Frame to Reinforce the Plywood

A New Mattress

A New Mattress

Advertisements

28 responses to “Navion Mods

  1. Best explanation yet of how to install the mixing valve. The photos make it easy. Good to see yet another boater with a View. Ours are a Grand Banks 36 Classic and 07VB.

  2. This is a fabulous resource. I am just taking delivery of a new 09 Navion J and plan to do the exact sewer mod you posted above. (As a long-time boater, I’m also mystified as to how people put up with the sewer-dump situation on RVs.) Anyway, I’d appreciate any more details you can provide, especially the source / part for the shorter T connection. Thanks in advance, and thanks for posting this page.

    • whitestonelane

      Sorry for the delay. I tend to neglect the blog when not on the road. The shorter T is a standard Winnebago part for earlier models. For example, I think a 08 View uses it. Your dealer should be able to find it. If not, call Ray Lewis at Lewis RV in Dayton OH. Let me know if you have other specific questions.

      • Polk Wagner

        Thanks. I found it: a Valterra T1039 2-Way Ell fitting. I bought mine from cdrvparts.com, but it is available from many places.

        I finished your suggested macerator install today. All went well, and it works great. Much more boat-like!

      • whitestonelane

        Glad to hear that things went well. Yes, a much better approach. Hope you are enjoying the rig as much as we are. Interested to hear what other changes you are making.

    • I’m picking up my 17NJ in August. I’m brand new to the RV life and have a VERY un-handy husband! I do the fixing and installing in our home but this seems a bit beyond my skills. Managing the waste systems is not my idea of happy RV’ing so I’m wondering if I give Ray Lewis at Lewis RV in Dayton OH a call, do you think they would be able to replicate your system in the 17N?

      • whitestonelane

        Hi Becca Anne,

        We have been very happy with our 2009 NJ and I really have not followed the changes on the newer models so I can not answer your question. However, the Lewis RV staff was very capable and would know if the conversion is possible on your 17NJ so give them a call.

        Sounds like you are in the same place as we were eight years ago. We just fell in love with the 09NJ and the type of travel it allows. Enjoy it just as much today as we did when we started. Generally take two 5-7 week trips a year. Here is a reference to some of our early travels: https://rvmirror.wordpress.com/ Hope you have the same success!

  3. Very nice mods! You did a great job on customizing your Navion… and the underbed doors came out great! If you get a chance you should post some pics over on the View/Navion Mods Yahoo group site so others can see them there.
    http://tinyurl.com/8q75pp
    Take care,
    -Eric

  4. Hello Dick
    My wife would like to purchase the single mattress for our J also. Could you share contact info and order number/info with us?
    Thanks Boyd

    • Hi Boyd,

      We ordered it from the Foam Factory in Clinton, MI.
      http://www.mattressbymail.com/conventional.html
      I don’t have the details (am on the boat right now and do not have the order info) but made a paper template for them and they made a custom mattress and a really nice zippered cover and shipped it UPS. Arrived about a week after I ordered it and cost around $350. I initiated the order by phone and then sent the template. I think it was a 6″ medium firm but used their recommendation and it worked out great. My memory says I worked with “Debbie” or something similar but do not bet the farm on that!

      Dick

  5. Richard.

    Was the Sani-Con worth the price of admission?

  6. So is the direct tv receiver a 12v unit or 110?

    Either way did you have to bring in more power from behind the Microwave?

    I got a lot of power going on in the cabinet, in including a RF modulator for the Direct tv unit. I am trying to streamline, but to do so I need to figure out how the Audiovox/Jensen unit get video to the TV sets. Coax is a bit of a drag.

    I used your advice on the wireless router and antenna, works like a charm.

    Thanks for the blog.

    • It is a 12V system which means you watch sat tv without any 110 power. The 12v power did come from a direct (fused) line from the battery but routed through the space behind the microwave. Used a S-video cable between the DirectV receiver and the TV routed in the channel over the entry door where there are other wires routed to the TV including the power to the tv which also has a fuse located in the channel. That would have been a trick to find if it blew!

      Glad your router/antenna worked out. We actually use the system in the Maine house when the Navion is parked in the drive next to the house. Also use the router in the Wi house but need to move the router to the house as the Navion is stored off-site. Plus have a setup on the boat and move the router there when we live aboard. Our router is truly mobile! This really simplifies life as you have only one account to keep track of.

  7. OK, so where did get your 12v direct tv unit. I have been searching online, but they all seemed to be priced around $450.00.

    My rig is down in Iowa, getting the Sanicon solution installed and a few 12v outlets out in.

    Go Vikes!

  8. We ordered it from the Foam Factory in Clinton, MI.
    http://www.mattressbymail.com/conventional.html
    I don’t have the details (am on the boat right now and do not have the order info) but made a paper template for them and they made a custom mattress and a really nice zippered cover and shipped it UPS. Arrived about a week after I ordered it and cost around $350. I initiated the order by phone and then sent the template. I think it was a 6″ medium firm but used their recommendation and it worked out great. My memory says I worked with “Debbie” or something similar but do not bet the farm on that!

    +1

  9. Hi, thx for this article – really helpful!

  10. Great mods on your Navion, love the under bed storage. I have the same model and replaced the matress with a non fold model from a friends Pulse unit. Still have not found a solution for making the bed with out skinned knuckles and back strain just to get the sheets on it. Any ideas? Thanks for posting your article.

  11. Thank you for showing me where I wanted to install the paper towel holder I bought a year ago!!

  12. Louie Sherwin

    Thanks for the detailed description of your modifications. We are looking at getting a used Navion/View and I have always been concerned about the split bed/external storage setup. They finally did away with this design ine 2011.

    The 09/10 are now in our price range and I am confident that following your modifications will make the bed much more comfortable.

    My other concern regarding this design has to do with comfort an dust. Have you had any problems with comfort in hot or cold climates sleeping next to the un insulated door? Secondly have you had any problems with dirt/dust getting in to the sleeping compartment because of the door?

    tks louie

    • whitestonelane

      Louie,

      The modified bed worked out great especially after adding the foam mattress. It may not have been clear from the description (“covered the side opening with boat canvas material that snaps on the inside and is held tight at the bottom between a couple parts of the wood frame”) but when you open the door from the outside, there is a canvas that covers the opening from the bottom of the mattress to the top of the opening. Thus only the storage area opens to the outside. This keeps dust and insects from entering the bedroom area when the door is open and also gives privacy to the bedroom. I ended up using Velcro to seal the canvas to the inside wall.

      Regarding temperature, we seldom use the MH in the summer when it is hot but often in the winter when it is cold Temperature next to the door has not been an issue we have even thought of.

      Good luck with your purchase! We still absolutely love our 2009!

      Dick

  13. I’m taking delivery of my 2008 24J in a few weeks. I will be making most of these mods. Thank you for the pics and the clear instructions.

  14. I realize this is an older post but am hoping to connect to get more information about your bed modification. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s