Tag Archives: shoestring budget

Repairs, additions, and modifications

Now I had me a motorhome.  Old, but habitable and roadworthy.  Or so it seemed.  I kept noticing a strong smell of gasoline.  It was pooling on the manifold below the carburetor.  Not good – wastes fuel and is a fire hazard.  Maybe a loose hose or fitting?  Tightening everything up didn’t help.  Ahhh… there’s where it’s coming from – accelerator pump.  The rubber diaphragm was dried and cracked and allowing fuel to escape.  Replacement part was about five dollars, plus a half hour of my time to install. 

Motor was now good again – what about the “home” part?  Hmmm… some tiny leaks in the fresh water system.  Like the fuel leak, turned out to be pretty easy and inexpensive – a few connections needed tightened, and an o-ring in one, and that was that.  While I was at it, I made the rounds checking and tightening screws and whatever all over – cupboard hinges, appliance mountings, and what-have-you.  Removed the slightly tattered folding door to the bathroom.  Hung a shower curtain.  Starting to look pretty good.

 Now it’s time to customize a bit.  I started by taking the 8-track stereo (no kidding!) out of the dash and replacing it with something made in this century. Now I can listen to  AM, FM, and XM radio as well as play CDs.  Can’t play 8-tracks anymore, though.  Replaced the existing speakers with something a little better.  Decided not to go overboard with amps and subwoofers and such – just kept it simple, but good enough for casual listening.  I figure I can use headphones when I really want an audiophile experience, and the rest of the time, pretty good is good enough.  Back in the living area, I installed a television, and I sacrificed one of the overhead cupboards in the kitchen to install a microwave oven.  It’s getting pretty darn habitable in here now, huh?  Oh, the exhaust fan in the bathroom vent was pretty noisy and the screen a bit raggedy, so I replaced it with a ShurFlo Comfort Air vent fan (similar to a Fantastic Fan) - very quiet on low, and can move a lot of air if needed – makes a great whole-house ventilator.

Had to fix the ladder on the back, and I put a couple coats of Kool-Seal on the roof to seal and insulate it.  Put some new fog lights in the front to replace what was left of the pair that used to be there.  Of course all this work took place over the course of several months worth of weekends.  So the forum people were right about finding something that had “nothing wrong with it” – despite the lack of obvious defects, there was plenty to do to keep me busy between chasing down the more subtle issues and customizing it to meet my needs.  Still – it was cheap to buy and so far I haven’t had to sink too much money into it.  All the expensive stuff (engine, transmission, fridge, and a/c, for example) continues to be OK.  Even the customizing has been pretty inexpensive, using mostly stuff I had around anyway or picked up on the cheap.   

Good and cheap – mutually exclusive?

Sorry I haven’t written in a bit. Had a bit of whatever’s been going around and just wasn’t in much of a writing mood for a few weeks.

So where were we? Oh yeah – filling you in on a little history.  So I’d decided this was do-able.  I’d have basic shelter plus all the technological comforts of home.  Next step was to learn as much as I could about RVing in general and motorhomes in particular.  Where did I go?  Where I always go when I need to absorb information on anything – the internet.  There I found lots of info.  Blogs and websites about general RVing, full-time RV living, technical info about all the various systems (as a fully self-contained living unit, a typical RV needs its own electrical, water, and septic systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, and more).  Now I’m a very handy person and can fix almost anything, but there was still plenty to learn.  How the RV systems differ from conventional systems, for example.  And how they are similar.  What things are subject to more frequent failure and why.  A fantastic resource was (and continues to be) the RV.NET forums.  Full of people who’ve been there and done that.  Post a question and you’ll quickly have lots of good answers.

Now that I’ve educated myself a bit, it’s time to go shopping.  My budget?  As cheap as possible.  I hoped to find something a little older, maybe in need of a little TLC that I could do myself, but no major problems.  I posted on the forums about what I hoped to do, asking if I was being realistic or just dreaming.  As you can imagine, the replies ran the gamut.  Some folks wouldn’t feel safe (nor be caught dead driving) anything older than five years old.  Others were a bit more realistic, suggesting that I should be able to find something good in the 5-10 year old range.  All but a few seemed to think that trying to buy a motorhome for full-timing on a shoestring budget was more wishful thinking than reality, suggesting that in the long run it would be more trouble than the money saved would be worth.  Some went as far as to suggest that if I couldn’t afford to buy a nice, late-model rig, then perhaps I shouldn’t be contemplating the lifestyle.  But it’s all opinion.  Some folks, OTOH, were supportive, with the caveat that I’d need to be pretty handy and do my own repairs, and to try to buy something with no apparent defects because there will always be some hidden problem or another, and things will eventually break.  No need to complicate matters by starting out with known problems.

Time to hit the usual places for used vehicle buying.  Dealers tend to be more expensive than private sellers, but they are nice for being able to compare different units all in the same place and get an idea of what I like and dislike about different styles and different floorplans, get a feel for different sizes and features, etc.  Most of the stuff at the dealers was bigger and more expensive than I was interested in, but it was still educational.  Next stop, the private sellers. Craigslist, RV Trader, and a couple other sites that list RVs for sale by private individuals.  Looked at tons of ads.  Most of the cheap ones were obviously junk, and most of the nicer ones were either way too expensive or already sold.  Alot of them I just didn’t like the floorplan.  Still, I managed to find some that seemed promising enough to actually look at in person.  What did I say about the cheap ones being junk?  Oh well.  Then I found one that looked OK.  Even in person.  I liked the floorplan.  Everything seemed to work.  No evidence of major leaking or structural damage.  Ran well.  Tires were decent.  Despite being almost 30 years old, it was in better shape than alot of much younger coaches I’d looked at.  It seemed to have been well maintained.  Had just the right mix of replacement parts of various ages, indicating that things were serviced or repaired as needed (rather than a rush “let’s get it fixed so we can sell it” rehab project).  After a little haggling, I became the proud new owner of a 1979 Georgie Boy Cruise Master “Mini-Home”.

Next installment:  repair and customization