[Posted by Steve]
In between our bursts of travel to new areas throughout the country, we like to occasionally settle down for a while to not only vegetate a bit, but also to take on some of the little projects and upgrades that have been added to our “wishlist” along the way. Of course, I do all the actual work, but only after Mona Liza gives management approval!
A couple of our most recent upgrades involved:
- Building a set of nice, strong jack blocks to assist with leveling Betsy, when needed. These blocks sit between the jack base and the ground to reduce the distance the jack has to extend, and they offer a larger area to distribute the coach’s weight.
- Installing some cool tire covers that we heard about from Gay and Joe of good times rollin. We didn’t really like our old tire covers and have been hoping to find something better.
Jack Blocks (set of 2) –
We have tried a couple of the “indestructible” jack block products available out there, which Betsy promptly destroyed. With Betsy’s rear jacks holding up close to 22,000 pounds, those products can either flex badly out of shape or aren’t tall enough to allow the jack to gain the needed additional height.
I wanted something that was tall, wouldn’t buckle, was fairly light and wouldn’t take up a lot of room in our compartment. Here’s what I did:
Each set of 2 blocks required a half sheet of 3/4″ exterior plywood. I’ve built only 2 blocks so far, to see how they work and determine if we need 2 more. The plywood can be purchased in half sheets from Home Depot, which is nice if you have a small car like ours and can’t fit a whole 4’x8′ sheet in it. While at the store, get some construction glue, about twenty 3″ galvanized or deck screws (and the bit to drive them) and 2 cheap drawer handles like the ones in the photo. That’s all of the materials, and it shouldn’t set you back more than $40.
Cut the half sheet into eight 12″x12″ squares. Stack them into 2 stacks of 4 squares and drill a couple of starter holes into each of them. Drive two of the deck screws into the holes – this step just keeps the stacks square and together while you drill the rest of the starter holes.
Drill the rest of the starter holes into the squares. I figured 9 screws on each block would be plenty, so that’s what I did.
Take the blocks apart, but be careful to lay them so you’ll be able to stack them back together the same way.
On one block, squirt or brush the construction glue liberally onto the mating surfaces of the four pieces of wood, then stack them back together as they came apart. Now screw all of the deck screws in until they are flush with the surface and wipe off the excess glue.
Assemble the other block, then install the handles. I offset my handles toward the “ground”, thinking it would be easier to pull them out with my awning rod. I’ve heard of folks attaching a length of rope to each block so they can pull it out without using a rod, but I didn’t want muddy rope that I would have to store away when it rained.
This is a simple and inexpensive project, but you will need to own or borrow a saw to cut the plywood and a drill to drive the deck screws. After several uses, my blocks are holding up well – even on uneven surfaces. Although I realize they won’t last forever, they’re so cheap and easy to make that I won’t mind doing it every few years.
Tire covers –
This upgrade requires only your wallet and knowing what size tires are on your coach.
We owned a set of typical fabric tire covers for years, but we were never happy with them. They were bulky, got dirty and full of bugs, and they allowed condensation to build up on our nice wheels in humid conditions – not a good thing over time.
As soon as I heard that Magneshade started offering tire shades, I picked up the phone and ordered four of them. This small company makes everything custom, and the quality is excellent. We’ve enjoyed a full set of their exterior magnetic window shades for years, and these tire covers are attractive, compact, and just plain cool.
For our large 22.5″ tires, the cost was just under $200 for a set of four, shipping and tax included. It’s hard to tell they are even on our rig, and I can attest to the fact that they will stay put even in tremendous winds – as we found out a couple of weeks ago. You might want to check these folks out!
Up next: Back to our travels, the hikers paradise – Great Smoky Mountains