There’s no end in sight for the burgeoning aftermarket in accessories and performance-enhancing products for motorhomes.
By Jim Brightly
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is an international trade group that represents the specialty automotive industry. Its members include manufacturers, distributors, retailers, auto restorers, and an assortment of companies that are dedicated to making the automotive world a better place for those who love their vehicles.
SEMA began in 1963 as the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association. Since then the name has changed twice as the organization’s scope was broadened to first include more than manufacturers (Speed Equipment Market Association), and then to include automotive accessories other than those for speed (Specialty Equipment Market Association). No matter which groups were included, the show (and organization) has always been recognized simply as SEMA.
So what does this group have to do with motorhoming?
Each year during the first full week in November, SEMA holds its association show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where members of the organization come to show off their latest and greatest products. For the 2002 SEMA show, more than 1,400 exhibitors in 7,000 booths displayed products for the 82,000 professionals in attendance (consumers are not invited) during the four-day event. The show featured something for any type of automotive enthusiast, including RVers.
In the following paragraphs you will find information on several products I thought would be of interest to motorhomers, judging by many of the letters we receive throughout the year. To find out more about SEMA members and their products, visit www.enjoythedrive.com or www.semashow.com.
The PDA-Dyno, by Nology Engineering, is designed to turn your handheld PDA (personal digital assistant) into an electronic dynamometer. According to company literature, the device can be used for 1996 and later cars, pickups, and many motorhomes (those equipped with an OBD II connection). Simply connect the PDA-Dyno to the OBD II port and your PDA becomes a multifaceted diagnostic tool. The kit includes a software CD with manual, an interface, and cables for connecting the interface to the PDA and the OBD II.
Use it as a dynamometer to measure horsepower and torque; to log data for later comparisons; to acquire engine data (it can record an entire trip’s fuel mileage — up to eight hours or more depending on available memory space); and as an OBD II scan tool (it can check and clear diagnostic trouble codes or turn off your “Check Engine” light). Not all of the device’s sensors are supported by every vehicle, so the uses of the scan tool might be restricted by your own vehicle’s limitations.
The device has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $350, plus $30 for the optional PDA Magnetic Windshield Mounting Kit, which attaches to a vehicle’s windshield with suction cups and can hold the PDA in its magnetic grip.
Nology Engineering Inc., (800) 665-6491, (760) 591-0888; www.nology.com
Among the exhibitors at the SEMA Show were two companies that offer tire monitoring devices. I was told by representatives from both companies that they will soon have receivers that can support more than the 10 tires involved in most motorhome/towed vehicle combinations.
The first is the Intellivalve from the PDK Automotive Group. The system features individual wireless transmitters that are mounted in each wheel. These transmitters send radio signals to a monitor on the motorhome’s dashboard, giving the driver an instant readout of the tire pressure (0 to 200 psi) and temperature of each wheel. By warning the driver of improper tire inflation and heat issues, the device can help improve gas mileage and tire wear, as well as reduce the risk of a blowout on the motorhome or towed vehicle (an unseen blowout on your towed vehicle could cause a disastrous fire). As the name implies, the Intellivalve replaces the valve stem of each monitored tire. The $299 product (per four tires only) requires that each tire be slightly dismounted for the valve to be replaced, then remounted and rebalanced after the installation.
PDK Automotive Group, (800) 735-2822; www.intellivalve.com
The Tire-SafeGuard from HCI Corporation also checks tire pressures, but it offers two kits: a four-transmitter device (TPM-S204) and a six-transmitter unit (TPM-S206). Each Tire-SafeGuard kit includes a sensor that mounts on the rim inside each tire and is secured by a band around the circumference of the wheel. An in-vehicle receive-display module shows digital tire pressure in real time. Installation requires that each tire be completely dismounted. Each individual module automatically measures the tire’s air pressure up to 145 psi. The receiving radius of model TPM-S206 is well within the length of both a motorhome and a towed vehicle. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the four-module kit is $445; the price of the six-module kit is $695.
HCI Corporation, (562) 926-7123; www.tiresafeguard.com
Osram Sylvania Corporation has introduced several new Xenarc high intensity discharge (HID) lights that can be used as replacements for original-equipment headlights or as part of an auxiliary lighting system. The Xenarc HID Auxiliary Low-Beam kit ($399) is designed to complement a vehicle’s low-beam headlights. These xenon lamps are said to be approximately three times brighter than standard halogen headlights; to produce a whiter, more intense light with increased contrast; to reduce power consumption by nearly 50 percent; and to last 10 times longer than standard halogen lamps. The lighting kits also include a wireless remote so it’s not necessary for the switch wiring to penetrate the vehicle’s firewall. Prices for the headlight replacement kits vary according to the application.
Osram Sylvania Corporation, Automotive Lighting, (800) 347-3420; www.sylvania.com
To spice up your motorhome’s appearance, how about adding some cool neon lighting to your basement cargo bays or your interior door steps? Liteglow Industries Inc. offers neon and LED light rods that are available in several colors. The neon lights can be purchased in lengths ranging from 3 inches to 20 inches, while the LED rod is available in a 10-inch strip only. You can even use the LED light bars to replace the factory-installed light strips in the ceiling or to design your own interior display. The company also carries Flexlight, a rope light that motorhomers can use to accent the interior of their coaches. Prices are available upon request, depending on the application.
Liteglow Industries Inc., (800) 801-4569, (954) 971-4569; www.liteglow.com
Imagine being able to observe all sides of your motorhome using a single rearview monitor. ASA Mobile Electronics Company now offers a fully electronic camera-switching observation system that allows up to four cameras to be sequentially viewed via its 6.4-inch LCD monitor. You can even locate a camera on your towed vehicle for critical observation of its operations.
The electronic keypad that is attached to the monitor automatically selects each camera in sequence and allows you to control the scanning speed. Cameras can be manually selected by depressing the desired camera push button, and individual LEDs on the monitor illuminate to indicate which of the four cameras is being displayed. The system automatically determines how many cameras are connected and will scan only the connected cameras.
Prices for this and other ASA monitoring systems are available upon request.
ASA Mobile Electronics Co., (800) 688-3135, (574) 264-3135; www.asaelectronics.com
Audiovox Corporation has introduced a new DVD navigation system to accompany its existing CD system, which gives users the choice of buying one DVD for the contiguous 48 states, or using more economical CDs that cover only the areas where you’re traveling. What’s really fascinating about this system is the choice of monitors.
In addition to a wide array of dash-mounted pedestal monitors, Audiovox debuted its LCD rearview mirror at the SEMA Show. With this mirror, not only can the driver keep an eye on passengers, but when directions are needed, the LCD panel kicks in to display a map and directional icon, while the navigation system provides audible directions. After a few seconds, the LCD goes blank and the monitor becomes a mirror again. With this device there’s no need to add another monitor to your dash to further diminish your field of vision. Prices for the new navigation system are available from the company.
Audiovox Corporation, (800) 645-4994, (631) 231-7750; www.audiovox.com
We’ve all had to take that first step — to get to the roof of the motorhome. Whether it’s been to check for leaks or just to see the scenery from a different perspective, every motorhomer has likely climbed to the top. Going up the motorhome’s rear ladder can be uncomfortable — especially trying to reach that first rung on the ladder — but coming down can be downright scary. If your foot slips off the rung while your other foot is trying to reach the ground — look out!
To help make that last step easier and safer, SportRack Automotive offers the Flip-Step, a convenient fold-up step that slides into a 2-inch hitch receiver. When the step is not in use, it folds up, revealing a recessed LED light array that can serve as a third or fourth brake light and a running light. The Flip-Step features a single-hand latch mechanism and comes in three styles/sizes: the original TRK 6-inch-by-9-inch step, the MAX 6-1/2-inch-by-9-inch step, and the SUV 5-1/2-inch-by-7-inch step. Contact the company for ladder prices and other information.
SportRack Automotive, (586) 997-6861; www.sportrack.com
TriMas Corporation announced at this year’s SEMA Show that it has formed a new subsidiary called Cequent. Cequent is a group of companies that market products for the towing, trailer, cargo management, and weight distribution industries under the well-known brand names of Draw-Tite, Reese, Fulton, and Wesbar. All of its products are designed around “Getting Your Gear on the Road” and keeping it there. Although many of these products appear to be painted, they are, in fact, electrocoated. According to the company, this provides added durability and reliability, minimizes rust, and enhances product appearance.
Cequent, (734) 656-3000; www.trimascorp.com
Seals And Gaskets
FMC magazine receives letters each year from motorhomers asking where they can find replacements for worn-out window and door seals and gaskets. At the SEMA Show I may have found a source: Clean Seal Inc. The company, which is located near Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, will attempt to match any sample it receives against those in its huge inventory. According to a company representative, a small sample of your old seal or gasket will help find the appropriate replacement, but a cross-section drawing of the needed piece will work almost as well. Pricing depends on the length and type of seal or gasket needed, and a minimum $50 order is required.
Clean Seal Inc., (800) 366-3682, ext. 4887, (574) 299-1888; www.cleanseal.com
For those who own motorhomes built on the Chevrolet P-series chassis with pre-Vortec big block engines, Edelbrock Corporation may be able to get you to your destination faster, more relaxed, and with improved mileage with its Performer Multi-Point EFI Systems.
Multi-point fuel injection is a much-improved fuel delivery system compared to Chevrolet’s earlier TBI (throttle body injection) system, which used a carburetor-type intake manifold with a fuel injector sitting on top like a carburetor. The TBI system relied on the manifold to distribute the air-fuel mixture to the cylinders. Multi-point injection, on the other hand, is patterned after today’s factory-installed injection systems and meters the air-fuel mixture to each cylinder for increased power and fuel mileage. Prices of these systems depend on the specific kit needed and the number of components involved.
Edelbrock Corporation, (310) 781-2222; www.edelbrock.com
Sound Of Silence
Anyone who has driven with youngsters can truly appreciate the sound of silence — when all stereos, TVs, video games, etc., are shut down or turned off. Traveling with a large, varied group in a motorhome can be just as distracting to the driver if each individual is listening to, watching, or playing a different electronic device. The WhiteFire Multi-channel Digital Headphone System from Unwired Technology LLC now offers complete stereo wireless reception for up to four digital audio channels (with any number of headsets) tuned to the user’s choice of audio input device (DVD, CD, video game, radio, TV, or Internet). Whether the group is in camp or on the road, any number of passengers can listen to four different audio broadcasts independent of each other (actually, five, if the driver is listening to the in-dash radio without a headset). Contact the company for complete pricing and purchase information.
Unwired Technology LLC, (631) 293-6900; www.unwiredtechnology.com