Chinook Renovation

  • Finished upgrading the cabinet struts with Columbia struts. The previous owner replaced the mounting hardware with a lower quality version in two of the cabinets. I was able to order the original quality hardware and install the new struts.

  • I installed the Curt front receiver, part # 33055. This required that I drill larger holes in the chassis, extend existing holes, and cut though the bottom of the plastic bumper to make room for the 2 inch hitch.

Chinook Renovation

  • I installed the new Fantastic Fan 803350 12V Vent ($220) in the bathroom. I’ll have to figure out lighting in the bathroom since the previous fan including a light fixture. I might just use a battery operated LED light in the near term.

  • Using the old solar wiring conduit, I ran the wiring (feed line) for the UHF/VHF antenna from the roof into the above-cabin cabinet. I installed the antenna (Comet-NCG SBB-5) on the Diamond K540KM mount to the passenger side rail. It has a swivel mechanism allowing me to manually rotate the antenna flat to the roof.

  • Regarding the solar system installation, I ran the wiring from the roof through the old TV antenna hole to the driver side cabinet and forward to the above-cabin cabinet, and down the driver side pillar toward the battery compartment. It looks like I’ll have to drill a new hole through the floor and then another into the side of the battery compartment. More on reconfiguring and updating the battery compartment later…

  • I removed the low voltage disconnect (Sure Power model 135000) and plan to rewire from the charger to the battery using the direct route along the driver side wall behind the couch and bypassing the now removed LVD. Any recommendations on wiring size? Should I wire the negative to the battery negative and forgo the existing wiring to the chassis ground?

  • I replaced the non-functioning cabinet struts with new ones from Columbia Struts. Wow! What a difference.

Chinook Renovation

  • I installed the Fantastic Fan over the living area. The install went well with no hiccups. Yeah!

  • I replaced the light bulbs in the fixture near the entrance. The old bulbs were clearly burned out but the lights didn’t work with the new bulbs. I removed the fixture and checked the voltage at the wires coming out of the ceiling. No electricity. Yikes! After reinstalling the fixture, I realized that the fixture had a switch in the panel above the closet. I turned it “on” and the lights came to life.

  • After receiving the weBoost cellular booster, I played around with antenna placement on the roof.

  • I ordered the ICOM IC-7100 HF and VHF/UHF ham radio transceiver, a VHF/UHF antenna & mount, and a tuner.

Chinook Renovation

  • After a frustrating attempt to get the seatbelt off the driver side pillar, I took the snippers to the plastic cover to access the bolt underneath. I was able to pull the driver side pillar and visualize the wiring bundle running from the overhead cabinet down to the battery bank area.

  • I pulled the old solar panel plugin access to see if I could use that hole in the roof to run the ham radio antenna cables. It appears the solar cables run through a conduit that won’t be accessible.

  • The batteries are still charging.

Chinook Renovation

  • A couple of days ago I installed the Progressive Dynamic’s 4645V 45 Amp Converter/Charger Upgrade, and subsequently further researched the installation and realize I made a mistake. Also, several online sources suggested that a converter/charger upgrade warrants an upgrade of the wiring gauge leading from the charger to the batteries via the low-voltage disconnect (LVD) device. So I pulled the entire install out and checked the wiring. It appears that one of the previous owners cut the factory wiring and installed new wiring with a shortcut that led out the back of the cabinet and along the driver-side wall behind the now-removed couch to the LVD. They spliced the new wire to the old wire just prior to the connection at the charger fuse panel. I don’t quite understand why they just didn’t attach the new wire directly to the fuse panel? Also, the new wire runs directly over the hot water heater and isn’t tied down at any point. Do you really want a wire sitting on the hot water heater? It just seems like a fairly shoddy job. I will need to correct this by protecting the wire and terminating it directly to the fuse panel.

  • I reinstalled the converter/charger upgrade correct this time.

  • I removed the old batteries and set the two (2) new Lifeline GPL-31XT Deep Cycle 125 Amp AGM Batteries in the battery tray, and they fit! While I was pretty sure how the wiring was originally configured on the old batteries (I should have taken a picture), I did some quick research to make sure that I reconnected the wires appropriately. The good news is that the 12 V system began working right away as evidenced by the lights coming on inside.

  • I plugged the Chinook back into shore power and made sure I had a fire extinguisher nearby. All systems appear to be working – I tested the 120 V system using one of the outlets. The converter/charger was blinking a green light indicating that it was in “boost” mode and charging the batteries. Nice work!

  • Using my multimeter I tested the voltage at the converter/charger fuse panel (13.58 V) and at the low-voltage disconnect (13.45 bolts) resulting in a net loss of 0.13 V, or 1% voltage drop over that wire run.

Chinook Renovation


All attached by screws and sealant

  • I picked up mineral spirits and a scraper at Home Depot and started to work on getting the old, crusted sealant off of the roof. The job was easier than expected and very satisfying.

  • I cut out a cardboard template the size of my proposed solar panel and set it on the roof. There will be a 2 inch overhang on the lateral side of the panel. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.

  • I spoke with Roger at AM Solar to design a solar system. He was very informative. I didn’t realize the refrigerator would be drawing so many amps even while running in propane mode. The CO monitor and smoke detectors will be drawing 24 hours. He thinks I can get away with 2-100W panels but thought I should go back to my cardboard templates to see if I could fit another 100W panel on the roof. There is a smaller 100W panel (more expensive) that might facilitate a third panel. Looks like I need to cut another (smaller) template and play around with the positioning. I’m not sold on the third panel but I’d like to look at all options.

  • Roger also explained that some MPPT solar chargers discharge radio interference that might adversely affect my plans for a ham radio install. There may be ways to shield the charger or use distance to my advantage. I might get the radio and play around with it after the solar system is installed. If all else fails, I could set the radio up as a mobile station in a box. While I’m not much of a survivalist, after living through Hurricane Katrina I recognize the importance of “low tech” communication in a disaster situation.

Chinook Renovation


Good times!

  • After some scratching of the chin, I removed the batwing antenna, the solar panel, and both ceiling fans. It took a lot of scraping of old crusted sealant off of the screw heads and a little crowbar action.

  • I ordered two new Fantastic fans on Amazon at $221 a piece to replace the old ones. I got some butyl seal tape and Dicor lap sealant too.

  • I ordered two new Interstate GPL-31XT batteries for $368 apiece from They have 125 amp hours of capacity. This would give me a total of 250 amp hours of reserve capacity and approximately 125 amp hours of actual capacity.

Chinook Renovation

  • I finished cutting the carpet out and focused on removing the edging and cutting close to the areas near the closets. This is tedious work.

  • Feeling the need to clean my canvas, I vacuumed up the Chinook with my new mini-shop vacuum.

  • Removing the dinette revealed 2-3 inch seat belt bolts attaching the seat belts securely to the chassis. S showed me how cut the seat belt bolts off with a grinder. Sparks were flying. Satisfying.

  • After cutting cardboard templates, S and I cut down the mini wall to fit the little wall next to the stove. Previously, the wall stuck out another foot into the hallway area. This opened up the space a bunch.

  • I guess the theme of this renovation thus far has been to open the space up. Frankly, while the dinette seats 4 people, I can’t image too often having 4 people in the Chinook. And that’s why it had to go.

Chinook Renovation

  • S has agreed to let us “rent” space on his property to store the Chinook. He even offered to put it in his RV garage over the winter while I work on it. Big bonus and thanks to S.

  • My first act of courage: I removed the jackknife sofa bed. The sofa frame is attached to the floor and the bolts and nuts had rusted underneath the Chinook, thus complicating the removal of the bed frame. I watched some YouTube videos on removing rusted bolts and tried what I could. After nearly busting a nut straining to unscrew the rusted bolt, I think I’m going to need a nut splitter.

  • Underneath the sofa is the water tank, the water pump, and the hot water heater. I’m going to remove the water tank and water pump so that I could tear out all the carpet which was installed below.

  • I’m heading to Astoria, OR for two weeks of work so the project will be on pause for a bit.

Chinook Renovation

  • Robin and I drove two hours down to Oakridge, Oregon to pick up the 2003 Chinook Concourse from Gail. We purchased the Chinook for $20,000. Older models with more miles are listed on Craigslist for closer to $30,000. Quite a deal!

  • I drove straight over to the DMV to register the Chinook. The paperwork was in order and the whole thing took about 10 minutes, including the wait.

  • I drove over to Wiesner’s Automotive repair shop to drop off the Chinook for a mechanical assessment. The folks over there seem honest and nice. I hope they’re good to.

  • I made an appointment at Jerry’s RV to replace the old rusted propane tank.