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Mods and Enhancements

Click on the various photos and links throughout this page for more information.

 
One of the things that I've enjoyed doing is modifying each of the RV's we've had to "make it better".  That's going to be harder to do with the new Diplomat, as it came with almost all the amenities we were looking for.  But here are some enhancements I've made so far...
Cockpit     Power System     Other Mods

Cockpit Area Enhancements

       

 

The very first thing I did was to remove the four bolts holding the top of the dashboard and replace them with industrial strength Velcro.  These bolts were extremely hard to get to.  Now anytime I need to work behind the dash, I just need to lift the top off.  When it's time to replace the top, I now just guide it into place into the groove you see next to the windshield, using the original bolts and holes as a guide, and then press it down on the Velcro.  Someday, when I figure I'm done working back there, I can always replace the bolts, but somehow I don't see that happening anytime soon. 

   
Garmin RV 760LMT:  The new Diplomat came with a modified Xite X2S Entertainment Head/Navigation System with Rand McNally RV GPS software.  However, I didn't like the GPS.  Also, I rely on the GPS a lot, so I prefer that it is located roughly in-line with my field of vision through the windshield.  I believe that currently, the best GPS for a motorhome is the Garmin RV 760LMT - a 7" display with lifetime maps and traffic updates.  This is the same 760 GPS that Garmin made for large trucks but has been modified with an updateable RV database and select software functions that are more suitable for RV'ers than truckers (like the customizable "What's Up Ahead" feature that can be easily accessed as you drive).  I especially like Garmin's new "Blue Tooth and Smartphone Link" technology which links your smart phone to the GPS for features like real-time weather displays and blue-tooth calling.  It offers lane guidance and life-like images of all exits, as you can see displayed on the picture here.  In addition, the dash-top mounting, with the extension arm, put the GPS where I could more safely see it and operate it while driving.  Click on this picture for links to full information about this great GPS.  (It will soon be replaced by the Garmin RV 770 LMT-S, which promises to be just as good with some newer features.)

 
GPS Mount:  The picture to the right shows the Garmin RV 760 mount.  I used all standard RAM Mount parts including a cradle designed just for this GPS (RAM-HOL-GA54U).  The base is a 2.75" suction cup twist mount (RAP-B-224-2U) with a smooth plastic disc underneath.  The mounting disk is attached to the top of the dash with 3M mounting tape.  While this is not as secure as a permanent mount using bolts, it can be removed someday if needed.  The screen can be unlatched from the cradle for security or placed on another mount in the toad, if you wish. 
Amicool Qi charger and phone cradle:   Normally I wouldn't even mention a phone cradle as a "mod".  But this thing is so great I wanted to tell you about it.  With several rotating parts and an adjustable arm, you can attach it just about anywhere and it puts your phone wherever you want it.  It has a super-sticky suction cup (tacky to the touch) that sticks to the textured surface of my dashboard top.  And with the Qi charging pad, it charges my phone while I drive without having to plug the phone in.  This may be the best phone cradle I have ever purchased.  I found it here at Amazon.com.
 

 

 

 

Doran Tire Monitoring System and SilverLeaf VMS 333

The Doran Tire Monitoring System gives me piece of mind that all my tires are properly inflated.  You can monitor both the motorhome and the toad.  Caps with small transmitters screw on to each valve stem.  You can read the pressure of each tire on the monitor and it it will alert you if the pressure on any tire drops below a user definable value. 

Even though I mounted the monitor next to the side window, I found that the unit had trouble picking up some of the right rear tires at times on the longer coach.  I resolved this by buying this antenna from Digi-Key for around $11.00 including shipping.  It is about twice as long as the original antenna with a bit more gain.  And it's tuned to a center-range frequency of 433 Mhz, which is ideal, as the Doran sensors transmit at 434.1 Mhz.  There are two kinds of SMA antenna connectors.  If you get one of these, make sure you get the one with the regular SMA connector that has the center pin in the antenna base - not the RP-SMA connector which does not.  Click the picture on the left for a close-up view showing the new antenna.

Doran is one of the older TPMS systems out there, but I've stuck with them as the quality is good, the batteries seem to last for several years, and they have GREAT customer service.  Click here for more information from Doran Manufacturing.  Click here for some interesting details from Doran about how this system works. 

 

 
SilverLeaf VMS 333:  This coach came with a Freightliner LCD Information system that reads information from the engine ECM.  (You can see it at the top of the dash above the steering wheel in the picture above.) However, SilverLeaf Electronics makes a VMS (Vehicle Monitoring System) in several configurations that also reads the ECM data via the OBD port (on-board data port) located near the steering column on most vehicles.  Their VMS displays on any monitor you may have available (including a laptop computer, if you wish) and gives you tons of useful information about your engine and powertrain systems, and even house systems on some of their products, in a format that's much more user-friendly.  The VMS 333 is currently their most most popular installed system.  It displays the information on any monitor and also contains software that uses that information for various trip functions, fuel economy computations, etc.  The main unit is hidden inside the dash area, and there is a small 3" x 2.5" keyboard that you mount anywhere you have free space on your dash to operate the system and display functions.  Since I had a VMS on my previous two motorhomes, I wanted one on this coach as well.  I had two monitors on which to choose to display the data, but the problem for me was that I had absolutely no extra room on the dash to mount the small keyboard.  I solved this problem by mounting the keypad in a small 3" "potting box" purchased from Digi-Key, and mounted the keyboard into that.  (Click on the pictures above for a larger view.)  Then I found a spot to mount the box on the left side of the dash near the TPMS monitor and transmission pad that was easy to reach while driving.

Since I don't use the Rand McNally GPS in the dash head unit, that display was the obvious choice for where to display the VMS data.  You can see the information displayed on the entertainment head unit in the full dashboard picture at the top of this page, and on the picture to the left.  To display the VMS on the head unit screen, I just have to tap the "CAM" button to the left of the screen.  Using the knob on the remote keypad, you can select which of the many available data items are displayed, and then scroll through three screens of displayed data.  One of the buttons on the keypad takes you to the trip display screens which you then can scroll through.  The letters in the middle of the screen instantly shows you information about the cruise control status, selected and obtained gears, and transmission mode setting. 

The control with the blue lights next to the transmission pad in the picture above controls the subwoofer installed under the dash.  More information about that is in the next section below.

 
 Dash Radio & "Infotainment" System
Unlike previous motorhomes I've owned, the cockpit entertainment system does not "double" as the house system in this new Diplomat.  The house entertainment system is fairly impressive with four TV's, including a 50" LED TV in the living room combined with a Bose sound bar, and a 40" LED TV and audio system outside under the awning.  There is also a Blue-Ray player that can be viewed on any TV, and a digital TV antenna and pre-wired Winegard DSS antenna mounted on the roof. 

The dash system that came with the coach is less impressive.  It consists of a modified Xite X2S (without the DVD/CD player), and two 6.5" medium grade 3-way Sony speakers in the overhead.  The head unit does include some features found on modern automotive systems like an iPod interface, a Bluetooth full-featured telephone interface for hands-free calling, and a Rand McNally GPS system (that I do not use).  It also came with the newest SiriusXM receiver -  the SXV300 that adds several new handy features to satellite radio (like pausing/re-starting songs, various scanning, search, and mix features and a few others)  Since I already had an SXV300 with a lifetime subscription, I was able to swap in my satellite radio receiver for the one that came with the coach. 

The head unit is a standard double-DIN size, so it's easily upgradable; and I'll probably do that some day.  But for now, it does the job.

 
Kenwood Subwoofer, Overhead Speakers, and USB Outlet:

Subwoofer:  The sound from the ceiling speakers was definitely lacking base tones, so I added a Kenwood KCS-SW11 Subwoofer under the dash area behind the lower center tray.  It's a tight fit in there with all the other things already in that space, and the area in front of the subwoofer is taken by a recessed under-dash storage tray.  But there was just enough space to mount this 11x7.5 inch self-contained sub-woofer on top of an electrical junction box.  (I sat it on a a sponge to eliminate vibration.)  It's small, but it makes a HUGE difference in the sound coming from the dash radio.  This unit comes with a wired remote control, which I mounted beside the transmission pad up on the driver's left armrest area.  (You can see it in the picture above in the TPMS section.)  The remote controls both the frequency response and the volume of the sound coming from the subwoofer. 

 

Added Multiple USB Outlet:  The picture to the left shows the same area with the covers replaced for the under-dash storage tray.  This area originally contained a 12V light at the top that comes on with the dashboard lights, two 12V outlets and one 120V outlet.  The 120V outlet was an RV type outlet that also served as a junction box for two yellow romex cables you can see in the top photo.  It looked a little unsafe to me. 

So I completely re-wired this area, replacing the RV outlet with a separate covered junction box for the romex cables, and then adding another black outlet and housing that was up to residential code.  That gave me the opportunity to also add a second outlet with a gang of four USB 2.1 amp power ports, all of which are also powered by the inverter.

These USB power ports have enough amperage to power or quick-charge any assortment of phones, tablets, etc.  One of them is dedicated to the Qi phone charging cradle mentioned above.

 

New Speakers:  I also replaced the Sony speakers in the overhead with a pair of Pioneer TS-A1676R 6.5" 3-way speakers that were a bit better - a little more power and a wider frequency response.  I was hoping to add 8" speakers but there just wasn't enough room up there without making major alterations.  These speakers however are probably as noticeably better than my old ears can detect, anyway.   I was lucky to find these at Best Buy in an open-box sale for about half the listed price.


 
Power System Enhancements
   

Flow-Rite Battery Watering System:   Since this new Diplomat is an all-electric coach, it came standard with a bank of six 6-volt deep cycle batteries and a Magnum 2800 watt pure sine wave inverter/charger.  However, it did not come with the batteries mounted on a pull-out tray, which make all those batteries a little hard to maintain.  The solution was to get a Flow-Rite Battery Watering System from RVUpgrades.com.  Each Flow-Rite RV 2000 watering kit services two batteries, so I needed to buy three of those, plus one RV-2020 hand pump, which will easily feed water to up to six batteries.  You install the caps and hoses such that the water from the hand pump will enter near the middle of the battery bank and then flow out to each individual battery cell.   Click on the picture to the left for a close-up view.

This thing works amazingly well.  Once you get it installed, all you do is connect the hand pump tubing to the system, and stick the other end into a jug of distilled water, and pump.  When it gets hard to pump, you're done.  Each battery cell cap is made so as to leave the proper air-gap at the top of each cell.

 

PowerPulse Battery Maintenance System:  Another addition to the battery compartment is the PowerPulse Battery Maintenance System for the house batteries.  You can see it mounted up next to the cut-off switch.  The PowerPulse uses power from the batteries themselves to send a pulsating DC current back into the batteries which prevents sulfates from building up on the plates.  They advertise that this will prolong the life of the batteries by about 3 times.  One unit will maintain up to six 6V batteries.  I had one of these on my last coach and I can verify that it will indeed significantly prolong the life of your batteries.  Some owners have installed a second unit for the two chassis batteries.

   

Surge Guard Remote display in Aqua Hot Bay:  The coach came with a TRC Surge Guard Plus Model 40350RVC Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) with Power Protection. What this does is combine the Transfer Switch and a sophisticated Power Protection Unit (similar to the popular Progressive HW 50C) into one unit.  But it is mounted on the curb side of the coach back in the inverter compartment.  The read-outs from the Power Protection System appear on the FireFly control panel in the gallery area inside the coach. 

However, you want to be able to monitor the power at a campground as you plug in to the park pedestal, and the power cord reel is in the Aqua Hot bay on the road side of the coach.  Fortunately, Surge Guard makes a remote display that you can mount anywhere.  So I had my dealer run a network cable to the Aqua Hot bay, and I mounted the monitor on the door near the power cord reel using industrial grade Velcro.  The thick plastic "Velcro" creates a gap between the door surface and the monitor, which should shield it from any moisture on the inside of the door.  I also laminated the instructions and fault codes and mounted that next to the monitor.

 

Moved Power Reel Switch:  The coach came with a Cablemaster CRR-50 Power Cord Reel.  When they built the coach, they mounted it upside-down, to the overhead of the Aqua Hot compartment right up against the forward bulkhead, as shown in the picture to the left.  That put the switch behind the reel next to the bulkhead where it was very difficult to reach.  Since you had to reach behind the moving reel, it would have been easy to cut your hand while reeling in the cord.   As part of the initial coach prep, I asked my dealer to switch the switch around to the other side of the reel, where it could easily be reached.  You can see that in the picture on the left.

   
 

Other Enhancements
 
Air Hose Mount:  Here is a cheap and useful mod.  I wanted to use the space in front of the generator to mount my air hose, rather than taking up space in a storage compartment.  I bought two metal J-hooks for $1.98 each and screwed them to the frame of the generator slide.  The coiled air hose and attached tire gage fits perfectly there secured with a short rubber cargo strap.  Then the drip shield fits over top in its original position.
 

 
Folding Driver's Table:  There is no area in the front of this coach to set anything down while underway, like a small computer, a book, snacks to munch on, an extra drink, etc.  We were really going to miss that until we found Tower Stool Company, a small family company in Faith, South Dakota who specialize in making folding wood furniture for truckers and RV owners.  This Driver's Table is the perfect solution.  The top is 15" X 15" with a lip around the edge so things won't roll off, and two cut-outs for drinking  cups and mugs.  We have a rubber backed carpet between the two front seats, so the table tends to stay put while underway.  The table is extremely sturdy with reinforcements and metal locking clips that lock it in the open position while in use.  But it folds flat to just 4.5" for storage when not being used.  We can stick it under the bed, or in the basement.  As you can see, they even stained it for us to match our coach.

We also bought one of these folding RV step stools from them to make it easier to reach the galley cabinets and microwave.  Take a look at the two links above.  This company is now showing pictures of our coach on their web site. 

  Full Length Mirror:  There was no full length mirror anywhere in this coach, so I took off one of the closet doors, took it to a glass cutter, and had him cut a 1/8" mirror to fit on the back of the door.   The mirror was then attached with 3M automobile exterior trim tape and reinforced with plastic mirror clips screwed on the top and bottom

Headrest Covers:  If you are wondering about the covers on the tops of the captain's chairs, my wife made those out of plush terrycloth hand towels - two for each cover sewn together on three sides.  They protect the leather seats from rubbing against the inside retracted slide edges while underway when the seats are moved back as far as they will go.  All the seating throughout the coach, including the expandable L-sofa, the European style recliner, and the dinette are leather residential style seating made by Villa.

 
The Toad
AirForce One Air Brake System for Toad:  When we replaced our light-weight Suzuki toad with the heavier GMC Acadia in 2013, we also replaced our original US Gear electronic brake system with the SMI AirForce One air brake sytem.  When trading up to the 2017 Diplomat, we installed only the parts needed on the motorhome, as the system was already installed in our toad.  There are no controls in the cockpit.  The system is completely invisible both in the cockpit and in the toad (except for a black box and some other parts under the hood.)  There is an LED light that I can hang from my car's rear view mirror, so that I can monitor in the back-up camera that the toad brakes are being applied.  Service air from the coach is transfered to the towed vehicle via an easily connected air line between the two vehicles.  When the motorhome brakes are applied, the control unit installed under the hood in the towed vehicle, applies the car brakes  with a force that is exactly proportional to that of the motorhome. 
 
Fuse Switch:  On our GMC Acadia, the towing instructions call for removing three fuses - one 50 amp fuse under the hood and two smaller fuses in the battery box behind the passenger seat.  So I would not have to do that, I had the shop include within the pigtail a 12v feed from the motorhome to the car battery to keep it charged.  This works fine, however I discovered that without pulling the 50 amp Batt1 fuse under the hood, mileage was accruing on the car's odeometer while towing since  the key has to be in the "accessory position" to unlock the wheels.  So rather than having to pry up the cover and pull that fuse all the time, I installed the high current RVing FuseSwitch from RV-Parts Plus.com.  This switch contains a relay so as to limit the ill-effects of high-current switching.  I cut a slot in the fuse box cover to feed the wires through, and then secured the switch to a panel right beside the fuse box with a piece of Velcro.  It's now a simple matter of lifting the hood and flipping the switch from "Drive" to "Tow", which mimics pulling the fuse.
 

 
The Sani-Con:  The Sani-Con Sewer macerating pump discharge system was not a "mod".  REV is currently including the system on all of their Monaco line coaches.  But I have to add it here on the enhancements page because for me, it simply eliminates all the  "annoyances" generally associated with the conventional dumping method.  The picture below shows the difference between a standard sewer drain hose and this system.  What the Sani-Con does is take the discharge from your black and gray tanks, grinds it up, and then forcefully pumps it through a 1" hose to the sewer hookup.  This makes both sewer hook-up and emptying the tanks unbelievably easy and sanitary, while also lessening the time it takes to set up and leave the campground.  The system comes with 21' of expanding hose that just slides in and out of the service compartment.  For those times when more length may be needed, I  ordered an extra 25' of hose from Sani-Con's web site.

The picture on the lower right shows the pump that is installed behind the panel.  Notice on the far right side of the picture that there is a short clear hose that bypasses the pump.  (Click on the picture for a larger view.)  For extended stays, you can leave the knife valve to the gray tank open, and it will empty as you use it without the need to run the pump. 

 This system can be added as an aftermarket option to almost any coach.  If one didn't come with mine, I would have added it.

Here are some useful tips I've learned for using the Sani-Con system.

 

A Future Mod?
Key Pad Entry System:  On our previous 2007 Diplomat, we installed a TriMark lighted keypad by the entrance door that worked with the TriMark Lock System.  You can see a picture of it here, and you can go to our 2007 Mods Page for more details.  I've already looked into that for the new Diplomat, but discovered that it does no use the TriMark system.  Instead it uses a proprietary keyless lock system made for Fleetwood by Magnadyne.  I checked with Magnadyne and that system has no compatable exterior keypad.  So in order to install an exterior entrance keypad, we would also need to "upgrade" the keyless lock system to a TriMark system. 

That would be easy enough to do, but a bit costly, and the current system and key fobs do work reasonably well.  So the question would be...  Is this mod worth the cost of replacing the existing system and key fobs?  While I very much would like to have an exterior lighted keypad again, this mod is going on the "back burner" for a while while we use the coach for a longer period of time.  What the new coach does have that the older Diplomat did not, is electronic locks on all the bay doors, which is very nice.  Of cource I could enable that feature with a TriMark system as well. 

 

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