Silverleaf Monitor, Windshield Fans, and Radio CD Changer

Silverleaf monitor:

After having heard a seminar discussion of the Silverleaf engine and transmission monitor at an FMCA rally a couple of years before we bought our Foretravel, I decided that if I ever got a motorhome with the electronic engine, I would factor the cost of a new Silverleaf monitor into the price of the rig.

Our 2000 Foretravel truly has the electronic engine controls (ISC engine).  By buying the monitor at Camping World during one of their "brown bag" sales, I got both my 10% President's club and the special 15% brown bag discounts.  Fortunately, the monitor just fit the bag.

I looked for a good mounting location where I could see the display and press the control buttons without taking my eyes very far off the road.  I could not find such a spot that I liked, and ended up mounting it under the dash.  This means I have to be careful if I try to read much data while driving.  Usually I leave it on the main display while on the road.

The Silverleaf monitor displays just about anything you want to know.  This is the main driving screen.  This shows I have selected Neutral, the transmission has attained Neutral.  The last 3 of the 4 icons at the top indicate the cruise is disengaged, the transmission is not in "mode", and the torque converter is unlocked.  (I forget what the first icon is.)

This monitor is wonderful!  The primary screen displays the gear selected and the gear obtained in large numbers.  I has a row of icons that tell if the cruise control is set, the torque converter is locked or unlocked, if the transmission is in "mode", etc.  Below that is room for your selection of three different engine or transmission parameters, both in graphic and in numeric formats.  I normally have rolling miles per gallon, engine coolant temperature, and cruise control set speed displayed.

There are two TRIP screens.  The first is for keeping track of individual trips.  It shows time, distance, fuel used, average speed, average miles per gallon, distance to go, fuel required, and estimated time of arrival.  The second one is for fuel fillups.  It displays basically the same information except for the miles, time, and fuel to go.  It is really nice to pull into a fuel stop and know almost exactly how much fuel it will take!  It is also a comfort to have a backup to the fuel gage when you are stretching a bit between fillups.

Another screen scans through a very long list of temperatures, pressures, speeds, etc.  You can monitor just about any engine or transmission parameter.

If there is an engine or transmission malfunction, the Silverleaf captures the codes and displays them with the time, date, mileage, and a full English discription of the problem.  This can be a great help to a mechanic who is not able to duplicate a transient malfunction.  Only major items are saved in the engine or transmission.  This unit saves them all.

Installation was very straight forward.  Once it was mechanically mounted there were just 5 wires to connect.  The unit comes with a harness with a special connector to attach to the most common type of motorhome diagnostic connectors.  Unfortuantely Foretravel doesn't use this partucular connector.  I cut the connector off the Silverleaf harness and connected the wires to ground, +12 volts (with ignition on), data +, data -, and the parking lights.  The last wire allows the unit to adjust its brightness for day or night use.  That's all there was to the installation!

I really love this system.  I seldom look at the transmission shifter readout, which I have trouble reading with a quick glance.  Instead I glance down to the Silverleaf and it shows me what gear I have requested as well as what gear the transmission actually is in at the moment.  All the time and distance calculations are very usefull and I love the fuel management screen.

Windshield fans:

My two previous motorhomes have had fans which could be directed at either the windshield or at the driver and passenger.  I really like having the flow of air when it is just a little warm.  Our Foretravel had no such fans. 

I bought a pair of two speed fans at Camping World.  If I were to have mounted these directly on the overhead panel on either side of the CB speaker, they would not have cleared the vertical panel inside the windshield opening.  I decided to make a mounting block that would both lower the fans to the right height and allow me to mount everything without damaging the vinyl covering of the overhead panel.

I removed the CB Speaker.  I then made a wooden ring that mounted exactly in the same footprint and used the same screw holes as the speaker.  I made a wooden block several inches thick that had a mounting for the CB speaker and had two ears to mount the fans.  I bought some foam padding and off-white vinyl at an upholstery shop.  I covered the block with the vinyl, mounted the fans, screwed the assembly to the ring, then mounted the speaker. 

I ran a number of wires from under the dash to the front overhead cabinets for future projects.  I used several of these wires to control the fans.  I installed two switches in the bottom locations of the side switch panel.

The fans can increase my driving comfort considerably!  The upholstered mounting block attaches to the old CB speaker mounting and does not mar the original vinyl covering.  (The fans are both aimed at me for now, as Betty doesn't like the "draft".)

Radio and CD changer:

My Foretravel did not come equiped with the optional CD changer, however we had purchased a Sony radio and a 10 disk changer for our Gulf Stream at a nearby Sony outlet store.  Before we made the Gulf Stream available for trade-in I removed this equipment.  Changing the radios consisted of crimping about 10 wires with a different type of connector and plugging them in.  I mounted the radio in the panel and it all worked fine. 

I mounted the changer in the upper right front cabinet.  The hard part was running the cable from above down to under the dasboard.  I ended up doing a little drilling at the top of the right windshield post, then fishing the cable down through this post and under the dash.

The changer mounted very nicely in the upper right cupboard.  The space under it is where I put my DVD player.  The switch selects it or the VCR. 

Yeah, I know, I haven't replaced the panels in the back of this cupboard yet!

I made a mount for an optional Sony wired remote control from some black drain pipe. (This sounds awful, but it really came out well!)   I mounted this on the right side of the steering column.  This allows me almost total control of the radio and CD's by dropping my hand a few inches below the steering wheel without ever taking my eyes off the road.

The remote on the steering column works really great!  I never have to take my eyes off the road to tune the radio, or to select CD's.  To the right is my color backup monitor with the Sony radio below it.  The Silverleaf monitor is just below that - out of this picture.

Update of 1/18/2010

On our last trip, I had a horrible failure!  My cd changer quit working!  As this was a refurbished changer I bought about 13 years ago for my previous motorhome, I decided it had given me a fair run.  

I did some research to determine my best course of action and decided to replace the radio.  My old radio accepted cassette tapes, but not CD's.  It did have the proper bus to accept the external CD player.  New radios not only accept a CD, but also will read MP3 and WMA encoded songs as well as standard CD;s.  This way, a single CD full of MP3's would contain more music than my fully loaded CD changer.  I selected a mid-range Sony radio which still had the external bus and had the proper jack for my steering column mounted remote.  That was essential!  In addition to the various CD formats it also has a front panel USB jack and an external input jack.  Using the USB, I can have a very large number of songs available by just plugging a thumb drive into the front panel.  The external jack makes it easy to accept input from a portable MP3 player or a satellite radio.

Then things got a bit ridiculous.  Looking on Ebay, I found a number of modern Sony CD changers which also read MP3's.  Using one of these I could have a number of CD's of various types of music and merely select the type I want to listen to.  I bought one of these at a very good price.  I now can have about 120 hours of music constantly on-line ready to listen to.  Time will tell whether this last step makes any sense or not.

My new radio fits in exactly where the previious one was.  There is much more functionality with this one than I have ever had before.  It will play a standard CD, a CD full of MP3' or WMA's.  It will play any of these in straight sequence, or randomly using any of several shuffling combinations.

It will also play from a USB device plugged into the front panel, a small stereo jack on the front panel, or the new CD changer.  It does AM and FM too.  On most FM stations, the front panel lists the song being played, as it does with all the CD and USB inputs.
My new CD changer fits in the same location as the old one, but is quite a bit smaller.  It still holds 10 disks, but uses a different magazine than my old one - darn!

Update of 4/29/11

As it turns out, I should not have bought the new CD changer!  I initially loaded it up with 6 or 7 CD's of MP3 songs.  I used it once.  It worked just fine, but I did have the annoyance of the MP3 disks taking quite a while to initially index all their contents.  Once this was done, it played almost forever without repeating a song.  Of course if you use the shuffle mode, it will occasionally repeat.  Using shuffle mode is a problem, however, as every time the disk changes, there is a significant delay while the new disk indexes its songs.  Of course this is not a problem if you use standard, non-compressed CD's.

I found that after the first trip using the CD's, it was much more convienient to use the same music burned to a thumb drive placed in the USB port of the radio. The indexing delay of the USB drive is much less than the CD's.  Also, about this time I installed my XM satellite radio in the motor home, now that I have a jack in the radio to accept it.

The bottom line is that now that I have so many other options, I just don't use the brand new CD changer at all.  I think I will probably take it out and list it on Craigslist or Ebay.



Dick Mason, Prescott, AZ  12/24/03