(click on image to enlarge)The victim for this article is our 1991 Dodge ¾ ton Cummins turbo diesel (affectionately known as “Babe” our blue OX). The 2003 Okanagan Mtn. park fire devastation is seen in the background.
In The Cab It is impossible to address the entire list of factory and after market options for the interior of your tow vehicle. In this article I will go over the items we use and hope to give you some ideas. The objective is to install accessories that will add to your comfort, safety, and create an environment suited to your needs. Our truck cab has been a work in progress; it is now comfortable and well equipped for long distance travel. It provides all of our needs for our hobbies and electronic devices. I am not trying to replicate the space shuttle cockpit. I am a techno geek, and you are perfectly within your right to just say, this guy is crazy after you realize how much is in this single cab. The only device that we operate while rolling is the Satellite Radio, and Jacquie can do this from her co-pilot seat using the remote control. The GPS is set up for our next destination stop before driving, and operates automatically.
A Good Navigation System (1) Paper maps and road atlases have given up their place to GPS navigation systems (Global Positioning System), they automatically lock onto satellites and use them to triangulate your position on the globe. The GPS then plots your location on built in maps. It will show you where you are on a particular street. As you drive it will provide you with spoken directions with turn by turn instructions to the destination you have previously entered into the GPS. A GPS device is far more than just an electronic map. You can request directions and contact numbers for medical aid, fuel stations, restaurants, grocery stores and tourist points of interest just to name a few. This is invaluable information when you are in an unfamiliar city. Just remember all inputs to this device are to be done when your vehicle is stopped, or by your co-pilot. We should all be aware by now how dangerous distracted driving can be.
There are two types of GPS, portable and factory installed. Factory installed systems are very expensive, but are neat with no exposed wiring and work great. They normally have larger screens but are out of your direct line of sight, usually located in the middle of the dashboard. In-dash units can be stolen too and with a great deal more damage to the vehicle. They are not my personal choice. Because this unit is permanently installed in your vehicle, you are restricted to sitting in your vehicle when planning your trip. Your co-pilot can’t search for that gas station or restaurant while the vehicle is moving. Alternatives are portable GPS devices, smart phones, laptops and tablets. All require GPS applications or built-in software and capable of receiving GPS information from the satellites. I am not an expert so I can only tell you what I use and prefer. I use a portable GPS for the following reasons: it has Bluetooth connectivity providing hands free answering for the cell phone. I never place outgoing calls unless I am stopped. I can program a trip right from my armchair at home or in the trailer at the campsite. I can plug the device into my laptop and program a trip. It is easier using the laptop’s large screen and more sophisticated mapping software. I can switch the GPS to pedestrian mode, put it in my pocket and find points of interest in a strange city while on a walking tour. The portable unit is less apt to be stolen if you remember to take it with you. I have a belt pouch that holds both my cell phone and my GPS. My wife Jacquie has a 3G iPad and we use this not so much for mapping, but for planning reservations for overnight stops. This year I used BCAA’s Triptik Travel Planner®. The TripTik planner lets you create and customize routes for trips across North America. You can print, save and email your high-quality, personalized, and detailed maps. The TripTik planner quickly gave me campground phone numbers, and distances between stopovers. For health reasons I restrict the amount of driving time or distance per day, so as not to wear me down. You can also search the internet for a trip planner to suit your needs. The GPS also gives me a very accurate digital readout of my speed, time and distance to destination and fuel consumption. I compared the GPS speed readout with numerous radar speed readouts you see on the side of the highway and the GPS was bang on every time. This told me that my truck’s speedometer was slow by 6 kph.
Satellite Radio (2) Outside populated areas and in mountains, radio reception is slim to none. A satellite radio gives uninterrupted companionship on those long hauls. You can listen to your favorite music, talk radio and even audio books. I bought a second base station for the trailer and simply move the radio from the truck to the trailer when we are camped.
Backup Camera aka “THE MARRIAGE SAVER” (3) & (4) Ok guys, this is the time to pay attention. A back up camera will make your partner very happy. If you can answer “NEVER” to the following question, read no further. You are a saint. “HAVE YOU EVER FLOWN OFF THE HANDLE AT YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER WHILE THEY ARE DIRECTING YOU BACK TO THE TRAILER HITCH BALL?” After a little practice, you can back up to the ball and nail it by yourself every time. This was my primary reason for installing a camera. I soon realized that I could back my large truck with canopy blind spots into and out of a parking spot safely. People walking don’t realize they are in your blind spot. The next thing I did was purchase a second camera for the back of the trailer (5). This one doesn’t work as well as it should because of the distance from the truck. It is still a work in progress. Please note; a backup camera is not a substitute for your eyes or for a spotter, always shoulder check the entire area before moving.
The Truck Consol I built a consol to go between the two bucket seats in our cab (2). If your truck has a factory-installed consol, you’re ahead of the game. Don’t waste this valuable space. You will want to keep items of convenience close at hand. This area is not an attic to get rid of the junk you don’t need. Here is what is in my console (7). Binoculars and camera for wildlife spotted. It’s a place to recharge electronics. Work gloves, change for parking, paper and pen, a small container of water for our dog, and my topographic maps when I’m in the bush. Granola bars, matches and candles are especially important during winter travel. If you ever get stuck for a long period of time, they could be a lifesaver. Your list will vary depending on your needs but do give it some thought before setting out on a trip. The top folds forward onto the gearshift making a writing desk, and a sheepskin cover (8) folds down over the top to make a cozy seat for our security manager/Chihuahua cross, Miss Lily(9).
Electrical Power 12volt &110volt You will need a good cigarette lighter splitter, so you can add multiple 12-volt sockets as I had to. This techno geek needs electrical power for all his gadgets. I have 2 large 12 volt batteries under the hood providing the power for 7-12 volt plugs and 1-110volt plug (10). These are required to run the following equipment when needed; 2 camera battery chargers, a rechargeable flashlight, a portable GPS, an mp3 player, a satellite radio receiver, 2 backup cameras, 1-110 volt inverter that is used to charge an iPad and a laptop. I do not run all of these devices at one time. I used to spend long periods of time in the bush perusing my wild life photography and the power was the lifeblood for my cameras.
CB Radio The simple Citizen’s Band two-way radio system has rediscovered some of its 1970s pre-cell phone glory. The Kings of the Road Truckers are efficient sources of information, such as which lane is closed ahead and where Smokey might be watching. Just listen and when traffic problems arise, the CB will soon become your new best friend. I used one years ago at a remote accident crash in the bush. A logging truck had crashed into a ravine and I climbed into his demolished cab to call in a helicopter with the still working CB. It saved his life. The standby channel in BC is (1) and (19) for all other provinces and the USA.
Engine Gauges A must have gauge for the Diesel tow vehicle is a pyrometer (2). This gauge gives a constant readout of your exhaust gas temperature. This readout is especially important when the engine is under heavy load as in mountainous driving. If you exceed your truck’s upper limit for exhaust gas temperature, things within the combustion chamber will start to melt, such as the pistons. The turbo boost (1) tells you how much air pressure your turbo charger is putting into the combustion chamber. Knowing this figure is a way of keeping tabs on the performance of the turbocharger. Air pressure (known as boost) + fuel = horsepower.
Brake Controller This device controls the amount of braking and the intensity of the braking of your trailer brakes. It is critical to adjust this controller as per the manufacturer’s instructions while hooked up to your trailer. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, take your complete rig to your RV dealer and have them set it up correctly. Incorrect adjustment can cause loss of control during hard braking situations.
Anti Theft The last thing you want to lose is your precious tow vehicle. You have too much invested in your vehicle to give it up to some joy riders. It really doesn’t matter how old or new your vehicle is, some are still very easy to steal. An ignition lockout system combined with a mechanical lock, like the steering wheel club makes your rig less inviting to theft.
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