Trailer Modifications - Escape 21
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1996 Trip Across the USA
2011 Trip Across US & Canada
Trailer Modifications - Escape 17B
Here are some modifications & Additions I've made to my Escape 21 Travel Trailer. For those not familiar with the Escape, they currently manufacture an Escape 17B (which I had for 6 years), an Escape 19, an Escape 21, and an Escape 5.0TA, a 21' fifth wheel. All are trailers constructed with a 2 part fiberglass shell (top & bottom) that produce lightweight, pretty near leak free trailers. There is no frame - insulation & aircraft vinyl is added to the inside of the fiberglass skin. For those interested in how fiberglass trailers are constructed, I have a page of Build Photos for my 21. Escape sends them a couple times a week as the trailer is built.
Like my former 17B, the 21 has all the "stuff" found in a larger stick built trailer, and the additional 4' let me have some features that just wouldn't fit in the 17. Still a wet bath (the shower and toilet are in the same space) but I now have a built in microwave, a real gas oven, a 6 cubic foot 2 door, 3 way refrigerator, a full size bed and a 4 person dinette with wrap around seating.
While many of the modifications I did to my 17 are either now standard or available as options on the 21, I still end up doing modifications to make the trailer better suit my needs.
I has Escape install a cell phone antenna, a WireNg Marine cell antenna that is the same model I added to the 17, and a XM Radio antenna that has more gain than the stock magnetic antenna that comes with the XM Radio (and which doesn't stick to fiberglass all that well!)
|WireNg Cell Antenna||XM Antenna||XM Radio & Outside Thermometer|
A couple of other additions were made during my orientation session at Escape so that they were positioned where I wanted them. They added a Springfield table support, and three Umbra hooks, cutting 2 of them to fit the spaces I chose.
|Springfield Adjustable Table Mount||Umbra By the Door||Umbra On Bathroom Wall||Umbra On Refrigerator Wall|
Another minor addition was a paper towel rack. I like this model, combined with Viva paper towels (Viva because they rarely unroll while traveling).
One of the first modifications I did was to install a battery monitor. The Bogart Industries TriMetric TM2030-A monitor consists of two parts, a large shunt through which all the battery current (in & out) runs, and the monitor itself. The advantage of the battery monitor is it measures amp hours in & out, a far more accurate indication of the state of charge of the batteries than the indicator built into the solar controller, or the meter built into the trailer.
|The Shunt||The Monitor|
Another early addition was LED lights in the upper storage cabinets. Escape won't install the lights, but will add electrical drops in each cabinet which made the process much easier than in the 17. Like the 17, I used manual switches rather than magnetic or other "automatic" switches. I prefer to be able to leave the doors open during cold weather without the lights on.
I would have liked to have sent them the JVC radio I installed in the 17, but it is no longer made & the FM sensitivity specifications on the closest replacement were not as good. Since that was the main reason for buying the JVC, I looked else where. I sent them a Kenwood KDC-BT765HD, which looked good on paper. Unfortunately, in actual use, it was worse than my truck radio (which is worse than the old RAV4 radio) picking up distant stations. So, one of my early projects was to change the radio for a Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS. Better than the Kenwood, but still not up to the JVC. Boy do I miss that radio! I like to listen to NPR radio & classical stations, both which are usually low power & far between. Now if I liked country, that seems to be available anywhere...
Since I often use my iPhone as a internet radio, I added a phone holder next to the head of the bed:
|Cell Phone Holder|
I ordered the 21 with 2 160 watt solar panels on the roof, and a Zamp (SAE) connector for my portable 160 watt panel. One of the modifications that will be helpful during the winters I spend at Quartzsite is to make the roof panels tiltable. The flat panels work fine during the summer when the sun is overhead (and the days are longer) but even with the usually clear winter skies at Quartzsite, the low angle sun doesn't put much energy into the flat mounted panels other than an hour or two around noon.
The plan was to tilt the panels perpendicular to the trailer length, however to do that and keep the mounting hardware installed by Escape, I'd need to find 2" heavy duty aluminum hinges, preferable with at least 1/4" removable hinge pins. So, at least for now, they are going to tip towards the back of the trailer.
|Tilting Details||Tilting Details||Rear Panel & Ladder||Both Tilted|
Like my 17B, I wanted to carry a ladder to reach the roof for cleaning, adjusting the solar panels, etc. Since the 21 is wider, I was able to purchase a 6' folding ladder rather than the 5' I added to the 17. Essentially, the same storage; a 5" vinyl fence post bolted to the trailer frame. The 6' ladder is sturdier than the 5' since it was available as a two sided ladder.
|Ladder Storage||The Mount||The Mount||Lag Bolts to 2"X2"|
|The Cover||4"X4" Blocks||Glow Ball Mount||Glow Ball|
I added a mount to the rear bumper for an 8' adjustable pole (a paint roller extension) that I use for either my glow ball or a external WiFi transmitter/receiver. Since I am using an AT&T Mobley unit for my internet connection here at Quartzsite, I put the glow ball on the post.
Now that I'm back in Oswego, a number of projects are underway. The first was to make what will be the LAST radio replacement. I've been through 3 previous radios, trying to find one that has the range of the JVC KD-AR959BS that I had installed in my Escape 17B. While the previous radios had excellent specifications (the same as the JVC), in reality they didn't have the reception of the first JVC radio. While it appears to be obsolete, I found one at an Amazon Associate, and installed it. It works just as well as the one in the 17B. It may be because it is analog rather than digital, but since I often camp in the middle of nowhere & like to listen to NPR radio, it works for me.
|JVC KD-AR959BS Receiver|
The next project is to replace the Escape provided table & the Springfield pedestal I provided with a Lagun support & folding teak table. While I liked the Springfield compared to the two post system that Escape provides, I can't slide the table off to the side to make access to the under seat storage areas, and even with the table slid as far to one side as possible, turning around to reach into the upper cabinets is difficult. Another advantage of the Lagun mount is the table (and mount) can be removed. The disadvantage is the teak table I am using with the Lagun mount cannot be used as a base for a bed. I'll add a couple of boards that will store under the rear bench seat that can be used to make a bed base.
I added a 5' long piece of 1/8" X 3/4" X 3/4" steel angle iron to the top of the seating front to prevent flexing, and a pair of 1/8" X 8" X 12" AM0812B Workstation Brackets from Woodworkers Hardware (the are also available from Amazon) for additional support. The table is quite sturdy, even though it weighs more than the stock Escape table. The photos show it open & closed in a couple of positions. As most who have made the conversion have done, I switched the slide clamp from the right to the left side of the arm so it clears the converter. A couple of minutes with a triangular file for the switch.
My only complaint is the supports for the slide mechanics extend far enough to hit the arm as you turn it. A couple of large 1/8" inch thick plastic washers would solve the problem. I emailed Marine Teak hoping they have such, but if not, I can make a couple out of Teflon. Anyone interested in a Springfield Table Mount?
|The Lagun Mount||Inside "U" Shaped Dinette Seat Supports for Lagun Arm|
|Teak Sliding Table on Lagun Mount||Air Gateway & 12V Supply|
|Teak Sliding Table on Lagun Mount||The Springfield Mount||WiFi Nanostation|
A couple of people have asked about my Nanostation & Air Gateway combination to provide a WiFi connection to the trailer. The Nanostation goes on a pole outside the trailer. It is a WiFi Radio, getting its power from a 12V supply rather than the standard 120V supply that comes with it. The 12V supply is a Tycon Power TP-DCDC-1224 9-36VDC In, 24VDC Out 19W DC to DC Conv / POE. The Nanostation has a range of over a mile when connecting to a good WiFi source, sends the received channel to the Air Gateway via a Ethernet cable (the same cable supplies 24V to run the radio), and the Air Gateway provides a local WiFi that covers the trailer (and, for me, the tow vehicle and area around the campsite).
|Protected Switch||3 Way For Radio||New Receptacle||Replaced 3" Dump Valve|
The next project was to add a switch to the propane detector. While I would prefer to have it on all the time, it has a mind of its own, and likes to go off at 3:00AM for no reason. The original did it so much I replaced it, but the new one, while better, still false alarms. I added a protective cover to the switch so it won't accidentally be switched off. The next photo is boring, but a good addition. The JVC receiver, like most auto radios, is designed to be continuously connected to 12V to retain memory, and a second wire connected to the vehicle ignition to turn on & off the radio. I added a switch near the head of the bed to turn it off at night, but it is difficult to reach when standing. The solution was to use a pair of single pole, double throw switches wired as a "3 Way" switch, and place the second switch near the radio.
After that it was time to do some more electrical work. When Escape built the trailer, I had them add a 120V receptacle that was wired directly to the converter rather than through the transfer switch. The idea was to use it for the electric cube heater, a fairly high current draw device. By wiring directly to the converter, I'd bypass the transfer switch contractor contacts, hopefully adding to it's life. The only problem was the location. I constantly knocked the connection loose when going to my usual seat at the dinette. So, a new receptacle on the other side was in order.
The last job of the day was a stinky one (actually difficult enough that I would prefer to use another word). I had a slight leak in the 3" slide valve, the dump valve for the black tank. Sometimes, when removing the cap on the sewer connection, about 1/2 a cup of black water would spill. Very annoying, and stinky! I saved it for the last thing for the day because I knew I'd want a shower when done. I have to say that Escape makes it almost impossible to change a valve. 2 of the bolts are blocked by the plumber's tape that holds the 3" drain to the trailer. There is no slack in the system, so getting the gaskets in place, then sliding the valve body in place is a bear. Lots of cursing, but it is done. It looks like it went together OK, but I'll find out the next time I have to dump!
A quick addition is an interior fan for the refrigerator. I've never been impressed with the performance of the battery operated versions, but these computer cooling fan versions work well. I had to run the power through the drain to the 12V input.
That is it so far, but I will be adding to this page as I add things to the trailer.
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Last Update: May 15, 2018