Highway Dreams

Travelling Australia

Adding an LCD water tank gauge

One of the most important features of our Jayco Eagle Outback are the twin water tanks that allow us to spend more time away from suburbia. However, we never had a way of knowing exactly how much water we had left in our tanks. After a week we actually felt like we were playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with our water and were expecting it to run out at any minute (and just hoping we didn’t). It would have been nice not to worry about how much we had left. We wanted a gauge installed but actually thought they were expensive and difficult to install. Necessity overcame our reluctance to embark on such a DIY job and we started researching options.

We saw a photo of a brand new design of gauges from R.V Electronics posted on a Facebook page taken at the 2013 South Australian Caravanning Show. They were different to others we had seen. We weren’t actually a big fan of the bar graph type gauges and because we had 2 tanks we didn’t want multiple gauges- we also didn’t have a voltage meter for our battery. The gauges from R.V. Electronics had a few configurations to choose from, one that was perfect for us. 2x water gauges and 1x voltage meter all in one display. Just what the doctor ordered!

I want to give a huge shout out to Neil from R.V. Electronics who was very helpful over the phone when helping us with what we needed and gave us some great tips for installing the unit. He popped it in the post and we had it the next day (all the way from South Australia to northern NSW) – we were very impressed.

There wasn’t much to the instructions but in reality there really isn’t much to the install either. Much easier than we expected!

We started with the sender units. They come in 2.5m, 5m or 7.5m lengths. We needed to be sure what lengths we needed before placing our order. Neil ensured me that in most cases the water tanks would not have to be removed however our tanks were snuggly mounted and had very good bash-plates for protection- for the sake of 2x ring clamps and 4 bolts we decided to drop the tanks out and give them a clean at the same time.

Once they were out, we followed the instructions. We found a flat section of the tank roughly 3/4 of the way up from the bottom and more than 240mm from the right hand side wall (to allow the sender arm to fall to the bottom and clear any obstructions). We used a step-drill to drill a 22m hole. We made sure it was cleaned and de-burred well.

The sender units are very cleverly designed and incorporate their own self-sealing grommet. When tightened, the rubber grommet is compressed against the inside wall of the tank, holding the sender in place and forming a water-tight seal. As our water tanks were a little thicker than most (some off-road vans or certain tank models have thicker walls), Neil was able to offer the solution of turning the rubber grommets in reverse to allow a longer compression to compensate for tanks like ours. (This is a standard multi-use design that R.V. Electronics sender units have). Kind of like a one-size-fits-all!

We carefully chose a route to channel the cable to the inside of the van. We followed existing cables and used plenty of cable ties to secure in place.

It wasn’t long till the second tank was kitted up with a sender unit and was back in place also. It actually took longer to tighten the mounting bolts back up than actually mount the sender units to the tank. So if you don’t need to take the tanks out, this is going to be a breeze for you.

We had chosen a location to mount the LCD display, out of the way of getting bumped, easy to read and convenient for the wiring. Once again, installation was simple. The cables were routed through and secured behind the wood panel under the lounge of our camper. We used the step-drill bit again to drill 2 holes, side by side to form an oval hole big enough for the 2 sender plugs and power cable to fit through.

We attached a power cable to the screw terminals on the back of the gauge and connected them via a fuse to a power source (we used the outlet of our solar controller as our power source). We peeled the backing off the double sided tape strips and carefully pressed it into position, making sure it was straight. We added 2 self-tapping screws into the mounting holes and replaced the front cover.

On goes the power and the unit lit up. Very impressive (and so was the handy work if I must say so myself).

It was time to test it out. We flushed the water tanks out to get rid of any extra plastic bits and debris caused from drilling. We replaced the bungs and began to fill. We watched from the inside as the gauges started registering the water being added. A sense of pride was felt for a job well done!

We are looking forward to testing it out in ‘real time’ in the next few weeks.

They really are easy to install and they look great. The LCD design is very ‘race car’, but so much more modern than the usual bar graph models. But that’s just my opinion.

Check out their other configurations at www.rvelectronics.com.au

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