LXE - Other Improvements



New curtains.  I knew from the start that I wanted to replace the original curtains.  The valences were too heavy and fussy for my taste, and the door valence had to be un-velcroed in order to close the camper.  Down they all came, and I made new ones the slide on wall track.  I detailed the process in a DIY article I wrote for the Aliner Owners Club newsletter.  I'm very pleased with the results.

Shower curtain.  The OEM curtain was made from ordinary plastic shower curtain, cut roughly to hang from cup hooks in the frame of the bubble window.  It was stiff, hard to store and easy to mildew.  After using an old sheet to make a pattern, I cut a new 3-piece curtain from white rip-stop nylon, using a DIY hot knife which sealed the edges as it cut.  On the advice of another LXE owner, instead of hanging the new curtain from the cup hooks, I wedged a small tension rod along each side of the bubble.  Small plastic rings, sewed to the side curtains, slide up and down these rods.  Each side panel has an extension that goes a little more than half-way across the back of the shower, where they hang from a cup hook and overlap. Velcro keeps the curtain in place around the door opening.  Above the folding shower wall, a small panel hangs from the top of the bubble window and overlaps the side curtains.  The nylon provides good coverage and dries quickly after use.  In the photo, you can see the toilet paper holder hung on the outside of the bathroom wall (the black strip is 2-sided velcro which keeps the TP from unrolling during travel).

For storage, each side curtain can be slid to the bottom of the tension rod and stuffed into a small mesh bag.  The curtain is held out of the way between uses and it doesn't interfere with the folded shower wall.  When the shower is not being used, the TP hangs on the inside of the bathroom wall. 

Kitchen window awning.  A small, easy-to-make and easy-to-hang awning gives good shade to the kitchen window. 

Materials needed from a fabric store:
awning fabric 2 1/8 yards (or 1 1/8 yard if you make a seam in the middle; allow extra if you need to match a pattern)
2 1/8 yds "half and half" velcro (sticky-back hooks and sew-on loops)
(4) small aluminum eyelets and an eyelet tool
Materials needed from a hardware store:
(6) 1 x 17 stainless wire brads
(2) small screw eyes, stainless steel
(2) 4' x 5/16 wooden dowels
(2) 5/16-18 x 5/8 T-Nuts (brad hole)

Prepare a rectangular piece of awning fabric about 74" long x 19" wide.  You can cut 2 1/8 yards in half lengthwise and save one half for a replacement awning later, or you can cut a 1 1/8 yd piece in half lengthwise and sew the ends together; in that case, your awning will have a seam down the middle a "flat-fell" or finished seam is neatest be sure to match your pattern. 

Draw the finished dimensions on the back of your fabric as follows:
Center a 45" line parallel to, and one-half inch below, the selvage (factory-finished) edge.  This is the top edge of the awning.  Center a 72" line 7" below, and parallel to, your first line.  You won't cut or press along this line it's for reference only.  Center another 45" line 10" below the second line.  Now connect the ends of the middle line to the ends of the top and bottom lines.  The finished shape is essentially a rectangle with a triangle at each end.  Add a seam allowance of 5/8" to every outside edge (except the top, which needs no trimming) and cut off the excess fabric. 

Press all the seam allowances under, including the selvage edge, along your pencil lines.  On the bottom edge, and on the lower angled edges, fold the raw (cut) edges under once more and sew the finished hem shut. 

Sew a 45" piece of the loop-side velcro to the back of the top edge of the awning, matching the velcro edge to the fold.  Place 1 row of stitching as close as possible to the fold, and place another reinforcing row of stitching 1/8" to the inside.  DON'T stitch the ends or other edge of the velcro!  It's supposed to "flop open".

In the same way, sew another piece of loop-side velcro to each of the top slanted edges, close to the fold.  You don't need to fold the hem twice the raw edge will be hidden by the velcro.  Again, DON'T sew the ends or other edge of the velcro.

Put an eyelet in each lower corner and 2 more evenly spaced along the bottom edge (avoid going through the hem thicknesses). 

Now stick the matching sticky-back hook-side velcro to the camper side the 45" piece just above the kitchen window and the short pieces slanted down parallel to the roof line.  Attach the awning. 

You will have to experiment to get the dowel lengths right start long and shorten as necessary.  Cut one of the dowels to 45".  Put a small screw-eye in each end.  From the other dowel, cut two pieces about 13" long.  Put a brad in the one end of each short piece (pre-drill for the brad).  Whittle the other ends to fit into a 5/16-18 x 5/8 T-nut and glue hook velcro on the back of the nut. The brads on the short dowels go through the screw-eyes and then through the corner awning eyelets; the T-nuts stick to matching loop velcro on the window, holding the awning out.  Lastly, put 2 more brads in the long dowel where they will poke through the other 2 eyelets in the edge of the awning.
 


Sun shades.  Several years ago, I purchased some "Aluminet" shadecloth, but never got around to using it.  When temperatures hit the upper 90s in July 2010, I decided it was time to get serious about creating some sun protection.  The rear bubble takes a real beating, as it faces west while the camper is stored setup in our driveway.  The challenge lay in holding a cover held above and off the bubble to avoid scratching the plexiglass.  At each rear corner of the roof, I have a 2' length of 3/4" conduit.  At the bottom of each pipe is a threaded male connection, and at the top is a cap drilled to hold a small stainless eyebolt.  Each pipe screws into a female connector (lengthened and reinforced by adding a 1.5" piece of 3/4" pipe and a slip connector) that is attached with brackets to the roof extrusion.  Stainless 1/2" screws go into the roof cavity to hold the upper bracket.  The lower screws go through the aluminum roof edge as well as the plastic "ear", barely projecting inside.  All screw holes are well caulked.

The shade is a 2' x 4' piece of aluminet, with a grommet (purchased with the Aluminet) in each corner.  Through each grommet is a ball bungee.  S-hooks on each of the upper bungees hook to the underside of the roof extrusion, above the wide black weatherstripping.  The short ball bungees on the lower corners are looped around the eyebolts in the top of the poles.  This all worked fine, except that the Aluminet tended to droop in the middle, nearly touching the bubble.  What to do?  "Lift and separate", of course!  (Remember those old bra ads?)  Two straps of poly webbing (Joanne Fabrics) go diagonally from corner to corner underneath the shade, criss-crossing in the middle.  A slit in one end of each strap (cut with a hot knife) slips over the screweye, under the shade bungee; hook velcro sewn to the other end fastens to oop velcro I had already stuck to the roof extrusion as a spacer (where the original nylon spacers fell off long ago).  The black bumper seen in the photo is part of our awning attachment; you can see that the bubble shade connections don't interfere. 

The resulting shade is easy to store - wrap the Aluminet around the poles and slip into a 2' sewn storage tube - and easy to erect:
1) screw poles into brackets
2) slip straps over pole eyebolts
3) crosscross straps and fasten to roof-edge velcro
4) lay shade over straps and hook upper bungees to roof edge
5) loop lower bungees over pole eyebolts

The side windows are also protected by pieces of Aluminet, cut to fit and simply hooked on suction cups.  Note: as any fabric does, the Aluminet stretches on the bias, so I stabilized it by sewing a strip of "Stay Tape" (Joanne Fabrics) to the diagonal edge.  An additional benefit to the Aluminet is its open weave.  It won't collect water, and will protect an open widow from sun while allowing air to flow through.
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Flower box.  Just for fun, I made a flower box from a Dollar Tree suction-cup shower caddy.  I cut green styrofoam to fit tightly inside the plastic and filled it with artificial flowers.  It's a friendly, bright spot on the outside of the camper.

Christmas decorations.  Since we store the camper popped up in the driveway year-round, Christmas decorations are a must.  On our old Classic, I was able to put a wreath around the Fantastic Fan.  This doesn't work on the higher LXE, with its long bubble windows in front,  Instead, I wrapped the propane cover in red plastic (actually, a Christmas Tree disposal bag) and added ribbon to make it look like a large package.  Before we hired Rudolph, he was a standard 4' lighted deer at Home Depot.  Now an electric-candle socket with a red globular bulb makes his nose gleam, and he's equipped with rope-light reins. 

Folding table.  A $20 lightweight folding table from Walmart is perfect for inside dining.  The height is adjustable and it's easy to put up and down.  It's small, but fits well between the twin beds. When not in use, it stands along the bathroom wall, wedged upright by the paper towel holder.  For travel, I lay it on the floor between the beds, on top of a non-skid mat.

Rear TV cable.  We like our 9" widescreen 12v TV with built-in DVD player.  The camper came equipped with a 12v outlet and cable connection in the front, but it's not a convenient location when we want to watch TV from our beds.  I removed the exterior cable inlet, added an extension to reach through the wall, and reinstalled it with fresh caulk and stainless screws that reach all the way into the interior paneling, not just into the exterior fiberglass.  Inside the camper, I added a 90-degree elbow and a cable splitter.  One leg of the splitter is connected to the original cable and the other leg connects to a new cable that goes into the rear cabinet.  Outlets in the side of the cabinet are a problem because any projection interferes with mattress and bedding.  Instead, I installed a standard RV power-cord "mousehole", painted tan.  The mousehole has a flat profile, but contains the TV cable, the 110v plug for the TV transformer, and the 12v plug that goes into the TV.  It's a simple matter to pull all 3 cords from the mousehole when we want to hook up the TV, and they're out of the way at other times.  The TV, by the way, travels on the top shelf of the rear cabinet, held in place by our plastic drawers.

Bedding.  Microfiber sheets have been great in the camper.  They're lightweight and dry quickly.  I bought twin sets, which are wider than our mattresses.  I use sheet clips on the bottom sheets to pull them together under the mattress.  For each top sheet, I cut extra width from a flat twin microfiber and a jersey sheets and hemmed the edges.  I also cut the jersey sheet short enough that it just extended beyond the end of the mattress, then matched the top edges of the two sheets and stitched the bottom of the jersey to the microfiber sheet.  Now I have only the microfiber sheet to tuck in at the bottom, and it holds the jersey sheet in place.  It's hard to tuck the sheets along the wall side of the mattresses, but folding that side under is a lot easier and it looks good.

For blankets, we use a lightweight fleece throw on each bed, with a small lap blanket for extra warmth.  We also have two fluffy blankets for use in cold weather, but have found that the furnace usually keeps us warm enough without them.


Radio Antenna.  We enjoy listening to public radio, but don't always get good reception in the camper.  Standing inside, holding the radio over my head, was not an acceptable solution!  I'd heard that I could use an automotive antenna, but I had trouble finding one that would work and would look good.  At CarQuest, I finally located a $10 Metra Universal Rubber Antenna, side mount, with a 14" removable mast.  The installation instructions, intended for a car, were to drill a 1" hole to accomodate plastic tabs on the mounting base.  Instead, I cut off the tabs, leaving the base flush with the camper skin.  I decided where to place it so that the inside projection didn't interfere with storage and the outside mount was in a good spot.  I drilled a single screw hole all the way through the side of the camper.  I replaced the original short mounting screw with a 2.5" screw that goes through the ball mount and base on the outside, through a fender washer on the inside, and into the base of the antenna wire.  The rubber mast is removable for travel and stores easily.  A rubber screw protector covers the outside threads to keep the mount clean.

Because my favorite battery-operated clock radio doesn't have an antenna jack, I added an antenna extension cord with an alligator clip on one end.  Now with the antenna mast in place on the outside, and the inside wire clipped to the radio antenna, we get a good signal.