Home Forums Modifications & Enhancements Modifying the Exsis for our Big Year Out – the techy stuff

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    • #872
      Chris and Susan
      Participant

      There’s nothing like a deadline… ever since we bought it in 2012, there was a long list of little improvements we’d always meant to make to the Exsis – finally the looming departure day for our Big Year Out gave me the motivation to get it all done!

      We added Froli springs to the bed – these are plastic supports that click into a grid and give the mattress cushions a flexible substructure, a bit like the hands that support a crowd surfer at a rock concert

      Each one can be adjusted for greater firmness in key sections of the bed to adapt to where you lie and where most of your weight is concentrated. They add about an inch to the overall height of the mattress, but don’t make any difference to the ease of raising and lowering the bed (ie it’s still a beast!).

      After we fitted them I wasn’t convinced I noticed a transformation in bed comfort – but we have been sleeping like logs every night for the last 9 months so I guess they do a good job… they also allegedly help with airflow under the mattress (although like everyone else we still get a bit of condensation at the foot of the bed on very cold mornings)

      If you’re interested I’ve seen Frolis appear for sale on eBay from time to time – eg: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Froli-Star-70-80-x-200cm-Sprung-bed-mattress-system-Campervan-motorhome/202573490959?hash=item2f2a522b0f:g:vM8AAOSwzExcR0CT:rk:4:pf:0 – and poking around in new Hymers (and other German vans like Knaus and La Strada) I’ve noticed that they are being used more and more in fixed-bed vans – even the monster £80k-plus models!

      We fitted a Fiamma 2-part flyscreen at the door – a bit of a faff to roll it up when you want to tidy it away, but much appreciated when the mozzies are swirling around… (of course they still manage to devour me on a regular basis – for some reason they leave Susan completely alone!)

      Knowing we’d be driving the van close to the weight limit once a year’s worth of possessions were loaded on board, we fitted air-assist cushions to the rear suspension. These are pretty reasonably priced (we paid £350 for the basic kit from Marcle Leisure and our local garage was able to fit them easily) and just involve replacing the rear bump stops with air bags which can be inflated depending on load.

      We routed the air lines to valves mounted beside the boiler; we just check and top them up every so often using a 12v compressor (some people fit complicated gauges and remote controls but then the whole system gets very pricey very quickly). We keep them at about 40psi with the van fully loaded, and the ride height and handling feel like it’s empty.

      (They do need to be professionally fitted, as something complicated needs to be done to the brake load adjuster, so that the airbags don’t fool the brakes into thinking that the van is light and empty when it’s laden.)

      After spending an agonising and fruitless day on my back under the van trying to waxoyl the chassis (only to come back the next day and find the section I had treated looking worse than before I started), I decided that this was definitely one for the professionals… a two-day job by Chris at Rustbuster in Spalding wasn’t cheap but was very thorough, using all the industrial van lifts, high-pressure steam washers and spray guns that I’d been dreaming of when poking around with my tin of waxoyl and paintbrush!

      (This was one of the things I’d been meaning to do for ages, and in the end I’d left it a bit too long – a bit of welding was needed on the front driver’s side wheelarch before they could start spraying the rustproofing gunk.)

      Autogas 2000 in Thirsk fitted an LPG tank so that we wouldn’t have to worry about different gas cylinder types and connections throughout Europe.

      Chris (yes another one!) at Autogas was very interested in the Exsis – hadn’t seen one before and took lots of pictures for future reference. He wasn’t keen on fitting an underslung tank due to the handbrake cable location (although I see from some of you on the Forum that it can be done) – he was humming and hawing between two 11kg Gaslow cylinders, or an 11kg and a 6kg, but either option would fill the entire gas locker with no storage space left. Then he remembered that Alugas had just sent him a newly-introduced 14kg cylinder which he thought might just squeeze into the Exsis locker.

      Eureka! It fitted like a glove – so now we’ve got a good-sized (28-litre) LPG tank but also plenty of space in the gas locker for the jack, toolkit, spare toilet cassette, electric hook-up lead and a few other bits and bobs.

      Autogas also supplied an exterior gas point for connecting up a barbecue – this all works really well, and LPG has been easy to find and ridiculously cheap all over Europe. (There’s a brilliant app, myLPG.eu, which shows LPG stations nearby and has never let us down.)

      Our Exsis still bears the scars on its rear bumper from an encounter with a French stone bollard on our first trip – soon afterwards we had reversing sensors fitted with the beeper located just beside the interior hatch to the underfloor cupboard. They are OK, but the beeps max out when there’s still loads of space behind the van, meaning that I often ignore them and inch back a little more… a little more… with the beeps freaking out!

      So I also added a 2-lens reversing camera – one pointing down the road, one pointing right down on the bumper. I bought some of the kit from eBay as a wireless system, but the local electrician who fitted it reckoned that the wireless signals would give lots of bother and that it would be simpler and more reliable just to run wires down to the monitor (a 2-screen rear-view-mirror-type monitor which I mounted on the flip-up top of the dashboard).

      He might have been right about that – but he made such a complete hash of running the wires through the back wall (leaving a big ugly diagonal conduit across the back wall of the van) that I had to re-do the whole thing myself and re-route the wires more neatly.

      He made a much better job of fitting a 12v extractor fan in the bathroom rooflight – as I think has already been mentioned on the Forum, the 28cm Fiamma extractor fan is a direct matching replacement for the standard Hymer rooflight. The power is easily tapped from the feed to the wardrobe light.

      One final recommendation… almost all the work described above was either completed, or the parts were purchased, during a week-long solo trip I took in the Exsis about 10 weeks before the departure date for our Big Trip. Susan loves motorhoming and LOVES the Exsis – but mysteriously she has less patience than me for endless visits to motorhome dealers and pottering about in caravan accessory shops. She had seen me tinkering and fretting and planning all these modifications and alterations to the van, and so it was her idea that I took a week on my own to head off in the van and get it all out of my system! I spent two blissful days at the NEC motorhome show, took the van for its rustproofing appointment and LPG installation, and in between visited every motorhome dealership and accessory store en route. It was awesome!

      So for all the other Exsising couples out there – as well as blissful romantic adventures to far-flung lands to watch the sunset hand-in-hand – consider the occasional Man Trip!

       

       

    • #874
      Barry & Maggie
      Moderator

      Thanks for that great write-up, Chris.  Some really good and interesting ideas there, especially the bed system.

      It’s not fully realised that condensation UNDER the mattress can be a big problem and it’s a very good idea to ventilate this, as more and more manufacturers are now doing as standard.  My own solution was the purpose-made “webbing/mesh” but your Frolis system is the RollsRoyce!

      Yes, some great ideas for us all to ponder there.  Thanks again.

      Barry

       

    • #965
      katymcgbysea
      Participant

      Such lovely writing, bringing me joy on this wet and windy day!

    • #979
      Fred & Gill
      Participant

      Well done Chris, some well thought out mods, something to sleep on, me thinks.

      I agree Katy, and I hope that Chris and Susan are enjoying better weather than us on their ‘ big trip’.

      I like the Alugas refillable and the space that it creates for the extra toilet cassette. Just hope it seals well in the upright position!

      Fred

    • #984
      Chris and Susan
      Participant

      Thanks guys

      Very happy to report that the toilet cassette seal is leak-free even when a full tank is stored upright.  To be honest I hadn’t even thought of that potential problem!

      And I could also report on the weather in Spain and Portugal over the last few months – but I fear I would make myself very unpopular….!

    • #2386
      Caroline and Dave
      Participant

      That was a really interesting post. Thanks very much for documenting it all, I think we need to copy just about everything : ) One of our sons is getting married in Italy so we’re heading off for a month in September, wish we had a year spare… one day!

      Caroline and Dave

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