The 2021 Winnebago Revel comes with a new Lithium Ion battery pack and Xantrex related charging hardware. There seems to be some warts in the design that cause issues. Most of them relate to temperature and charging - Li battery chemistry is sensitive to charging at low temps so Winnebago attempted to protect against this. As has been discovered by the user community, the fact that Revel alternator is INTERNALLY controlled forces the system to jump through hoops to not damage the batteries. Basically it narrows the acceptable window for charging. An alternate method of EXTERNAL control can be implemented to correct this, but Winnebago chose not to go this way (more $$).
Here was my summary of the temperature issue :
So in effect the batteries won’t charge from the alternator until the thermo switch sees 50F and since it’s attached to the metal structure of the van, it’s challenged to reach this temp on cold days.
There are other potential failure modes related to the ACR:
An additional point of confusion relates to the way the battery reports how charged it is. It's not a Winnebago or Xantrex issue really, it's about the way the state of charge is calculated. The built in battery management system watches charge going in and out and keeps track. Unfortunately it's not a terrible accurate way of doing things and you need to reset the counter by fully charging the battery. This can only be accomplished (in the Revel) with plugging in to shore power and letting it charge until the batteries won't take any more current. Neither the secondary alternator nor the solar panels can get you to 100%. So many folks think they have a full charge, but you don't because of SOC drift.
All this got me to wonder what's REALLY going on. I realized that since the BMS in the batteries have a Bluetooth LE server, I could write a little Arduino program to get at it. Well as long as you're collecting data from the house batteries, why not also get the chassis battery? And since this whole thing seems to be temperature related, why not capture a few temps?
So in the end I ended up with a little system that I've named "VanNerd" that consists of:
In order to capture and store the data, I implemented a Google Firebase backend, so the Arduino will take readings every 5 mins, then upload to Google every hour or so. You might ask, "Upload to Google, How?" Well I took two approaches - WiFI in the van and WiFi at my house. (I have the van hotspot set up, so when you're driving the Arduino could connect.) Basically the Arduino tries to connect with one, then the other. If both fail, it just tries in another hour. In the interim, it stores the data on a SD card.
Of course you can't stop here - in order to SEE the data you need a way to get it out of Firebase, so I had to write a little iPhone app to visualize the data. I had always wanted to try to write an app, so I learned enough about Flutter to do so.
Here's the prototype. At this point, all 5 temp sensors where mounted on the breadboard and I hadn't hooked up the chassis battery. I taped it down in the galley so I could drive around with it running.
The following are some pictures from the install. I've used the DS18B20 in other projects and really like it's digital and you can string a bunch of them together to quickly build a network. I found a version of them in a waterproof construction - which looked perfect.
1. Water Pump - I just zip tied it to the top. I thought about placing it on the tank output - which is close.
2. Macerator - Again I just zip tied it to the top fitting
3. Fridge - After extracting the fridge - I found there was a plastic cover over a hole used to run the refrigeration and power. I just force the sensor through and managed to tuck it behind the plastic cover on the inside. You can't really see it.
4. Outside - I just placed the sensor in the gap between the galley and sliding door. It's probably not the best placement, but it's protected and I can move it pretty easily if it turns out it's a bad idea.
5. Inside - originally I was going to mount one somewhere - but realized I could just solder it onto my pcb directly. Again - I may need to move this if it turns out the temp is too influenced by the Arduino.
I used an Arduino Nano 33 IoT as it can do Bluetooth LE and WiFi (although not at the same time). It took a long while to get this to talk to the batteries reliably. I found a cool eInk display at Adafruit that also incorporated an SD card. I was hoping to make this fairly low power.
I got my pcbs manufactured by OSHPark. I've used them before and it's works great. They will take native EagleCAD files so you don't have to mess with gerbers. For 3 boards it was about $30 and took around 2.5 weeks. I only found 2 layout errors on the finished boards - which were recoverable.
I realized the OnePlace already had connections to the house and chassis battery. I wanted to power the project from the house batteries, but wanted to monitor the chassis battery. So I fashioned an adapter pigtail to tap into these. It's a standard Molex 8 position connector.
One design idea I incorporated was to only sample the chassis battery for a few milliseconds so that I wouldn't inadvertently drain it by leaving it hooked up to the voltage divider (always a small amount of drain). The project being hooked to the house batteries is supplied by a huge battery and it's recharged via solar - so shouldn't be a problem.
Since there was an SD card, I set up a small preferences file so I can change a few parameters by changing the file - things like upload frequency, sample frequency, WiFi password, etc.
I used Google's Firebase backend for 4 main reasons.
At the moment, with 5 minute samples being uploaded every hour is running me about $1.25/day. I might be able to lower that as I'm not exactly sure which piece of the backend incurs the most costs.
Here's the final product. eInk screen, Arduino on the pcb. It's just double stick taped up above the one place. Right now there is no user interface - just a screen. There's no way to get at realtime info - it's delayed by the upload period - currently one hour.
Here's some of my first data with the van sitting in my driveway. Nothing is going on, but the fridge is turned to 4. (Yes it's hot outside -Northern California). You can see that the fridge is pulling a couple of amps very periodically. When the sun comes up around 7:30, you can see the outside temp increases and the solar panels start charging. They peak at 4 amps. Looks like around 11am the batteries get full. Also the reefer swings between 30 to 40 or so. It was empty, so I imagine this would be stable with a bunch of cold food in it.
I have some future Ideas, but right now I just want to see what I get out of it.
The Revel has a sink drain switch (macerator) for the galley. However to use the sink you need to turn on the water pump. The button for this is around the corner on the One Place panel. Unfortunately this control is software driven and there is a slight delay while the One Place determines the current state of the pump (to display either On or Off). This gets to be a pain. Fortunately, WB added a solid-state water pump control relay to the pump operation which we can piggy back on to add another remote switch and state indication light. Plus you retain the macerator function too! The FB Revel site has many versions of this - it's where I got the idea.
So after adding 4 wires (2 for the light and 2 for the pump control), ordering a custom switch from Rockerswitchpros.com and ordering a replacement bezel from WB (part 144363-02-CHT), we're in business. This is momentary switch in both positions with an LED too part number VLD1-AX0B.
This the wiring diagram - stolen from the FB Revel Group:
The water pump control is below the Nautilus control panel behind the black louvered cover plate (a strikeling poor location for an electrical component - bound to get wet when you service the filter or spring a leak...)
My first attempt to mount it was to reuse the original bezel by cutting out the center section. That worked OK, but held the switch out from the cabinet by an extra 1/2" and kinda loosely. That led to it potentially snagging on clothing or being hit accidentally. Since I was going to order a custom labelled switch for this anyway, I decided to replace the unlabeled mystery switch above the fridge (its for the running board lights) with a labeled one too. Low and behold, this switch uses a simple flush metal bezel - which I was able to find on the WB parts list. So I ordered one. It's a much better solution in my opinion.
I wanted to use the built in water tank for all our water needs - instead of carrying around 5 gallons for drinking, etc. In order to do that, I felt it would be important to add an inline water filter for the galley sink. Although we filter the water when we fill, the water quality varies and more filtering is better.
I went with an Everpure ADC filter - it got good reviews, is built well, has good specs, and seemed like it would fit. I found examples on FB for installing in a Revel, but they were for earlier models with a different cabinet layout. They wouldn't work in the 2021.
I found a spot behind the lower drawer that works, but you have to mount to the wood panel located behind. This panel is only 1/2" thick and the filter is kinda heavy - esp with water. I decided to make a bracket to secure the lower portion and provide additional support. I cut about 12" off the cold line and attached that to the filter inlet. I got a 20" braided faucet line to hook the outlet up to the cold on the faucet.
It just fits!
There's a compartment behind the dinette seat that offers some additional storage. It has a nice door with a 1" hole. Others have mounted a simple cabinet lock there to provide a potential low level of security. It seemed like a good idea so I decided to work on this. The lock I could find (and it seems most of these) use a 3/4" shank. That makes them a bit small for the hole in the cabinet. The lock comes with a bezel you can use to "fill" in the gap, but I thought it looked and worked horrible. I wanted a more solid approach.
I ended up milling a part out of some aluminum to hold the lock and mount it securely to the door. It also fits snuggly so the whole thing has a more solid feel.
And here it is installed. I added a plastic tab so you can easily pull it open if you don't have the keys and it's unlocked.
I wasn't aware of this, but apparently the build quality in the RV market is notoriously poor. Supposedly Winnebago is better than most, but still leaves a lot to be desired. As I've been poking around in the van I've found a few things that I thought I would collect here.
For some reason WB uses duct tape to wrap the wire bundles. I've never seen this in a production setting.
Soln: When I'm fiddling with something I usually clean up what I can and use zip ties
Poor Controller Placement
This little guy is the controller for the water pump. Conveniently placed right near the water pump filter basket. I found that when I clean the water pump filter, water ends up dripping on the top of this. It's stared to corrode the terminals.
Soln: I cleaned things up, replaced the connectors, and sealed with dielectric grease.
In all the nooks and crannies there are metal filings, saw dust, loose screws, etc.
Soln: I tend to vacuum them up when I found them.
This is a brand new (less than 3K miles) van, and the first time we were in rain, we found a window leak.
Soln: It's going to be a warranty item - if we can get in.
Battery Tray Squeak
This thing has lots of little squeaks and rattles. Some are easy to fix (like remounting all the drawer stops so they actually close snuggly) and some are harder. We had a fairly annoying loud squeak coming from the rear garage area. It took me a while of hunting while the wife drove on bumpy roads to track it down. It turns out WB used rivets to secure the new lithium battery tray to the van wall. These do NOT hold the battery tray tightly against the van wall so they can rub.
My solution was to run some self tapping screws through them at various points. This seems to have done the trick. I'll be interested to see if it holds up. (Yes you have to remove the batteries, etc. to get at area.)
I removed the fridge to rodent proof and insulate the step area underneath. When I removed the fridge I found a few issues:
- WB mounts a retention cable to the top of the fridge (I guess this is there to keep it from flying around in an accident). The bracket for this has 4 screw holes, but mine only had two screws holding it on and they were loose.
- The Fridge is screwed into the cabinet by 4 screws accessed through the front bezel. One screw head was stripped, so I couldn't get it out with out drilling it out. Once I removed the fridge, I found two other screws had split the wood strip they were screwed into.
- There is a thin piece of wood above the fridge that is supposed to provide a barrier between the fridge and the drawer above. I found this piece of wood lodged to the side of the fridge. The screws had been ripped out of the wood.
Soln: Screw it back into place.
There are times when you want to use your cell phone, but you're a bit too far from a cell tower to make things work. You can get a cellular amplifier to help with the situation. Basically it's a roof mounted antenna, an amplifier and an interior antenna. The outside antenna is up high, away from the van and sensitive. The amplifier takes this and boosts the signal it can find. The interior antenna is small and meant to be used within a couple of feet. This is so the inside and outside antenna don't "see" each other.
I mounted the roof antenna on the roof rack with a swivel joint. I figure I put it up only when I want it so that it doesn't get snagged on stuff.
WB provided a nice roof access port on the 2021 so you can easily get the antenna cable into the dinette cabinet. I chose to run my cable behind the cabinet interior as well as wire in the power supply.
Since the power supply is permanently wired in, I needed an ON/OFF switch. I used one of the laser engraving companies to get a custom lighted switch. I milled up a bracket out of aluminum and stuck it on with some VHB. It's located just above the amplifier on the outside of the cabinet. Works for me.
The Revel uses radiant heat and the same heat source for hot water. To regulate the temperature there's a mixer valve located under the dinette seat. It's a thoughtful and welcome addition. However, it's a kinda heavy brass valve sitting on 3 PEX "stalks" about 8-10" long. This is free to sort of wave around under the bench since it's not secured. This seems like it will put a lot of stress on the cheap plastic PEX fittings that used.
I decided to secure it.
The large hose clamp goes over the glycol reservoir, the small clamp goes around the valve and the tubing piece goes inbetween. The tubing piece was a short section of square tubing that I cut one wall out of. Took about 3 minutes.
This really seems to have solved the problem.
WB gives you a nice little pantry in the Revel, but for some reason you only get 4 shelves and the shelving brackets are only about 60% of the whole height so you can't really put the shelving in "any" location.
So, I replaced the brackets on the sides with 48" ones that went pretty much all the way. The mounting holes lined up with the original ones, so I didn't have to try to align them. I then made 3 extra shelves with some laminated shelving and some aluminum angle. Put some pads on them to snug 'em up so they don't rattle.
I decided to add some lighting. I found a nice 12v LED light strip that had an adhesive backing. I mounted it to the backside of the door frame. I wired it up to a switch mounted on the door frame such that it goes on when the door opens. I hooked into the cabin lighting circuit found under the pantry.
I think it's much better.
One of the very first things I did was to try to remove the tie down shackle from the garage. The owners manual shows how you push in the center button to release it, then you slide it out of the base. Sounds easy. I went to go that on ours and found WB had mounted the base in such a way as to capture the shackle so you couldn't remove it. Not only that, many of the screws were obviously over torqued.
OK, so I removed the two screws that were in the way and found - they were too big. The head on the screw was too large to fully seat in the chamfer provided in the base. This lead them to stick up enough to foul the shackle.
After a few minutes on the mill, I make the chamfer larger and went to go remount them.
Unfortunately several of the screws had been stripped - they're sheet metal screws drilled directly into the floor, so if they're over torqued, they just strip out. I put some speed nuts on the back side to fix this.
By the way, if you happen to loose the base piece under the flooring and then manage to push it so far you can't get it, you can use a vacuum to retrieve it. I duct taped some tubing on the end of my vacuum, stuck it under the flooring and in about a second had it back out.
I also found the weather proofing that WB used - apparently Great Stuff Black - was sprayed all over, but not necessarily on the screw penetrations. Some Rustoleum hopefully will take care of that.
So in summary, our brand new Revel I found a removable tie down I couldn't remove, which lead to finding the screws were too big, which lead to finding some were stripped, to finding some did not have any weather proofing. This was my first taste of WB Quality Control. More to come.
We purchased a 2021 Revel (4WD Camper Van on a Sprinter Chassis) with a sort of "why not" approach. Plus its a birthday present for my wife. We wanted something we could be self sufficient and both of us would be comfortable driving it. That meant a smaller vehicle. We were going to rent one first, but Lisa kinda went for this when she saw it.
I've never owned or used an RV before, so there is a steep learning curve. It turns out that although the Revel is a very nice and capable vehicle, the build quality is mediocre at best. It's been explained to me as a combination of,
you get a lot for the price so somethings got to give
the entire industry has this problem and WB isn't that bad
you should just expect issues that you'll will have to deal with (more of a DIY vibe)
It also turns out these things are a starting point. Most owners modify them in various ways to either fix design issues or configure it for their particular use. The list of changes, upgrades, modifications, accessories is endless.
So with that, I'll probably post things I've done to the Revel. To be honest most of my ideas are from the Facebook Revel group. But I really don't like FB, so don't want to spend too much time dealing with it.