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Flexible Solar Panels


Geronimo John

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When we purchased our OE2 in 2018, we passed on the  solar kit due to cost and my obsession with not messing with the aerodynamics of the super smooth OE2.  As expected the costs of solar panels are more reasonable now, but the commercialization of flat thin flexible panels has taken awhile.  I don't know if these panels will flex enough for full roof coverage, but a combination of the slim and rectangular thin panels may suffice for great aerodynamics.  Should that be the case, with thin connections it may be the ticket.    Anybody tried this out yet?

GJ

 

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1 hour ago, Geronimo John said:

Anybody tried this out yet?

Not me.  But, FWIW, I own two flexible solar panels which I have mounted on top of Pelican 1600 cases to recharge batteries I use to power my CPAP machine on wilderness river trips.  One is almost 20 years old, the other just 1 year.  The 20-year-old 11-watt panel cost me more than triple what I paid last year for the newer 20-watt panel!

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4 hours ago, Geronimo John said:

    Anybody tried this out yet?

We installed flexpanels on the hardtop Bimini of our boat in 2017. Only 6 years old, and they're beginning to craze. Of course, they're in Florida sun. 

If we did it again, we'd want a little bit of air circulation under the panels. 

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Solar panels need to have space between the roof and bottom of the solar panel to allow air flow. Flexible panels will not last if they are adhered directly to the roof. Not only did people have panels fail prematurely, the 3M adhesive made it almost impossible to remove the panel and many had extensive damage to their RV roof. 

I would consult the panel mfg. to make sure adhering directly to the surface is an approved method.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, John Dorrer said:

Solar panels need to have space between the roof and bottom of the solar panel to allow air flow. Flexible panels will not last if they are adhered directly to the roof. Not only did people have panels fail prematurely, the 3M adhesive made it almost impossible to remove the panel and many had extensive damage to their RV roof. It isn't a case of whether they will fail, but when they will fail.

 

 

 

That's interesting because Renogy recommends mounting with silicone adhesive directly to the roof of the boat/RV. And they recommend this to eliminate the need to drill holes in the structure. They also say they are designed to operate normally up to 176 deg. and carry a five year warranty under these recommendations.

I'm not saying they're impervious to heat damage, but according to this company, there flexible panels were designed for exactly this type of application. 

I purchased the 200w 12v Renogy Flex panel for my charging needs for a lithium battery pack in the truck that runs my portable fridge/freezer. I'm quite pleased with the installation and function so fare. My biggest worry was whether the panel would come loose with thermal expansion and contraction. Time will tell on this front but since the camper shell is fiberglass resin construction and the Renogy panel is as well, the rate of expansion and contraction should be similar. And the silicone adhesive remains flexible when set up so it does allow a margin of flex. We'll see. I only used a 3/8" bead around the perimeter. Once rolled flat it probably spread around and inch wide squeezing out to for a nice bead around the perimeter. 

I think flexible panel technology has come a long way like so many other types of technology. I may be a test case for direct mounting but at least I have a 5 year warranty backing up the experiment. Here's to trusting the manufacturer's recommendations. 🍻😉

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2 hours ago, Ollie-Haus said:

That's interesting because Renogy recommends mounting with silicone adhesive directly to the roof of the boat/RV. And they recommend this to eliminate the need to drill holes in the structure. They also say they are designed to operate normally up to 176 deg. and carry a five year warranty under these recommendations.

I'm not saying they're impervious to heat damage, but according to this company, there flexible panels were designed for exactly this type of application. 

I purchased the 200w 12v Renogy Flex panel for my charging needs for a lithium battery pack in the truck that runs my portable fridge/freezer. I'm quite pleased with the installation and function so fare. My biggest worry was whether the panel would come loose with thermal expansion and contraction. Time will tell on this front but since the camper shell is fiberglass resin construction and the Renogy panel is as well, the rate of expansion and contraction should be similar. And the silicone adhesive remains flexible when set up so it does allow a margin of flex. We'll see. I only used a 3/8" bead around the perimeter. Once rolled flat it probably spread around and inch wide squeezing out to for a nice bead around the perimeter. 

I think flexible panel technology has come a long way like so many other types of technology. I may be a test case for direct mounting but at least I have a 5 year warranty backing up the experiment. Here's to trusting the manufacturer's recommendations. 🍻😉

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You are correct about the technology. I was thinking back to my truck camper days, where there was a flexible panel that got fried. There was a lot said about air flow. If the mfg. is calling for adhering to the roof surface then they would have tested. I stand corrected🙃

 

 

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Of course each manufacture will have mounting recommendations for their particular panels, so obviously do your homework first. 

Not meant to be a correction John, just caught me off guard and had to go back and double check my method. 😳

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On 11/28/2023 at 5:12 PM, Ollie-Haus said:

I purchased the 200w 12v Renogy Flex panel for my charging needs for a lithium battery pack in the truck that runs my portable fridge/freezer.

I added 200W of flexible solar panels atop the TV bed cap for the same purpose. Been great for 3.5 years! Since I did not opt for solar in my build, I’m now geared up to install a solar port at the propane tank housing to enable use of said panels to charge the OTT’s house batteries, as boondocking has become more frequent for me. Also adding a solar port outside at the rear basement hatch, inline with the other two ports for sat/cable TV. I plan to get a portable folding solar panel to further increase solar input. 

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25 minutes ago, Ronbrink said:

I added 200W of flexible solar panels atop the TV bed cap for the same purpose. Been great for 3.5 years! Since I did not opt for solar in my build, I’m now geared up to install a solar port at the propane tank housing to enable use of said panels to charge the OTT’s house batteries, as boondocking has become more frequent for me. Also adding a solar port outside at the rear basement hatch, inline with the other two ports for sat/cable TV. I plan to get a portable folding solar panel to further increase solar input. 

That's my long term plan as well. I've yet to install my Victron DC/DC charging system, a project for next summer. When I do that I'll add trailer front connections as well for the truck solar panel to supplement the Oliver solar. And ours came with the solar port at the battery compartment and we got the portable panel so we would be able to charge at ~800 watts on good days. Can't wait to get it all put together and run some tests. 

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@Ronbrink: Sweet set-up, Ron!  Thanks for sharing...  Cheers!  🍻

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We mounted our 600 watts of flex panels to the sailboat hardtop with vhb tape. They still do the job, but don't look as good. I don't expect to get 20 years from them, but then, I never did. (I fully expect our fixed panels to outlive us, on the trailer, and the house.)

We bought SunPower flex  panels, etfe coating, for longevity and best productivity, and radius of curve, based on statistical research and sailing forums. Best quality cells, at the time. I believe renogy is now selling sunpower flex panels, newest gen. 

(We wanted a backup to engine driven alternator charging, as we lost the alternator in a race to Cuba almost 8 years ago. )

Our boat panels are ALWAYS in the hot Florida sun.  They've done a great job so far. Haven't plugged in the boat in since installation. Dint have to run the engine to charge the batteries.  Flexible panels were the only realistic option on the hardtop curves. We used vhb tape, not adhesive, in hopes of being able to remove when necessary,  in the future. Fingers crossed. 

Those of you who store under cover will certainly see more longevity than we will, on the boat. 

I know several members here have used narrow flex panels to add to solar collection.  I hope they'll chime in. 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

Florida and Western North Carolina, or wherever the truck goes....

400 watts solar. DC compressor fridge. No inverter. 2 x 105 ah agm batteries .  Life is good.


        
 

 

 

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5 hours ago, Geronimo John said:

 

I'm impressed!  I love diversity of power supply for sure.

When I was installing our Lithiums and DC to DC and solar suit case I asked the forum if they could all play together at the same time.  Got zero response back then.

Looks like with your DC to DC Charger + Solar Panel on TV Bed Cover + Oliver Solar + Portable Panel =  You seem to know how to do it.  Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.  

Sorry in advance for hijackings my own thread!   🙂

GJ

 

Well fortunately for me Oliver did most of the thinking. My DC-DC will simply allow direct charging of my factory lithium batteries while the truck is running. It does require a heavy gauge Anderson connection be added from the trailer to the truck, but that been a planned addition to the truck from the time I ordered it. The charger install and connection to the batteries is pretty straight forward.

The solar panel connection from the truck to the camper would be another connection at the bumper to the camper, probably just a simple SAE plug on each end with a 4' tether that would make the connection if and when I need to use that capacity. Obviously while at the camp site a longer tether would allow parking the truck in the sun and connecting to the trailer for a boost in solar output. The trailer side of this would be connected to the batteries the same as the factory supplied aux charge port, with the solar charge controller mounted in the truck side of the system. 

The portable panel connects through the aux port Oliver provided, which also is a simple SAE plug. It's a direct connection to the batteries and requires a charge controller on the portable panels. The Zamp suitcase panel we got with the trailer has the charge controller built in. 

To answer your question, all this sounds like a lot of stuff, but it's really very plug and play and each part of the system has it's own charge control that monitors battery condition, preventing any part of the system from overcharging the house batteries. Each part you connect and or turn on just adds to the influx of charge until the bats are topped off and the control meters back to a float output. The internal Victron monitor just indicates battery status without seeing the other sources of charge input, but that has little effect on daily system usage.

As mentioned above I have yet to install much of this so there's no pics for the stuff listed out yet. As for the truck solar charging the lithium pack in the back of the truck that runs the cooler in the back of the truck, and has a direct connection from the solar panel to the battery pack. I use a Jackery and it like most off the shelf lithium battery packs has the charge control built in. BTW if the Jackery is plugged into the truck for charging while running the truck, the Jackery receives charge from both the truck and the solar simultaneously. 

I love the Jackery in the truck because in addition to the cooler, we can use it to power almost anything from the back of the truck while out remotely away from the camp site. You just have to decide how big of a lithium pack you need. We went with the middle of the road 1000w Jackery. It's enough to power the cooler for more than a day without taking up too much space in the back of the truck, about the size of a small drink cooler. The Truma fridge is on 24/7 with little attention required. I do monitor it if there's perishables inside and that's through a bluetooth app connection. 

All in all its a lot of stuff and Money spent, but like you I want multiple options when we are out camping, most of all in anticipation of remote dry camping, "glamping" in the case of an LE2 fitted with all the tech you can get. 😉🍻

 

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BTW if anyone is interested in adding solar to a tow vehicle, camper or even a portable system, Renogy is offering pretty big discounts this week on everything they sell. 

Also most of the name brand lithium battery bank manufacturers are offering big discounts on Amazon. 

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3 hours ago, Ollie-Haus said:

To answer your question, all this sounds like a lot of stuff, but it's really very plug and play and each part of the system has it's own charge control that monitors battery condition, preventing any part of the system from overcharging the house batteries. Each part you connect and or turn on just adds to the influx of charge until the bats are topped off and the control meters back to a float output. The internal Victron monitor just indicates battery status without seeing the other sources of charge input, but that has little effect on daily system usage.

Excellent.  I fully agree.   So let's drill a bit deeper with an example of how our systems "play together" for charging Litho's at lower SOC's. Like more than a few of us DYI Litho System owners, let's assume that Ollie has:

  • 30-amp rated Orion DC to D­C
  • 200-watt Renogy solar suitcase (about 15-amp ideally)
  • 60-amp PD Converter
  • 3 Each 100 aH Battleborns
  • Victron 712 Smart

Under ideal conditions, combined this system theoretically could produce 105 amps to charge our Litho’s via their three different manufacturer’s charge controllers. 

Assuming that the SOC of the BB's is at 40%, and I have shore power (Using PD 4060), solar suitcase, and DC-DC all online charging.  I have no illusions that I would ever see the theoretical 105 amps charge rate.  Why, system efficiencis are not 100%, and I suspect that each of their individual charge controllers will independently determine the amount of power it will provide to the batteries.   

In my mind’s eye, it assumes that each of the three charge controllers use battery voltage as their primary source of intel for how much power to send to the batteries.  Since each of the three controllers have different circuitry, and their voltage set points are not necessarily set to the same values, there likely will be different responses to a given battery voltage/SOC.   Additionally, the PD 4060 (with Litho Switch) for sure does not have the standard three step litho charge profiles as does the Renogy and Victron components.

Reminds me of having three fighter pilots from different countries Air Forces trying to fly formation when they each speak different languages and each pilot think he/she is in charge.  Bound to be a crash.  In the above scenario, I called it not “Playing Well Together”.

I interpret your above response, and agree, that at the high end of the battery bank SOC, the three separate charge controllers will eventually hit their charge “back off“ voltage and then will either slow the charge rate or stop charging.  Some call this a Maintenance Mode.  If they each have reverse power protection circuitry/diodes, that should be fine.

But in this scenario, the SOC is at 40%.  The Litho’s are hungry for power.  The big boy (relatively speaking) PD 4060 sets the pace with it’s non-adjustable 14.6V (?) charge voltage and is putting out an actual 56+ amps per my Victron 712.  Would the other two see this as a full charge voltage and go into Maintenance Mode?  Thereby defeating my goal "Warp Drive" using all the power “Scotty” can provide?

If this is the case, they survive well, but don’t play together well.  IF my mind’s eye does not need glasses, then:

  • Will stacking additional solar panel systems each using individual controllers result in the same conclusion? 
  • Would using the same MFG solar panels and controller change their play behavior?
  • Is there a means to effectively use multiple independent power sources (such as listed on our example above) to together efficiently charge the battery bank (play well together)?

GJ

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1 hour ago, Geronimo John said:

Excellent.  I fully agree.   So let's drill a bit deeper with an example of how our systems "play together" for charging Litho's at lower SOC's. Like more than a few of us DYI Litho System owners, let's assume that Ollie has:

  • 30-amp rated Orion DC to D­C
  • 200-watt Renogy solar suitcase (about 15-amp ideally)
  • 60-amp PD Converter
  • 3 Each 100 aH Battleborns
  • Victron 712 Smart

Under ideal conditions, combined this system theoretically could produce 105 amps to charge our Litho’s via their three different manufacturer’s charge controllers. 

Assuming that the SOC of the BB's is at 40%, and I have shore power (Using PD 4060), solar suitcase, and DC-DC all online charging.  I have no illusions that I would ever see the theoretical 105 amps charge rate.  Why, system efficiencis are not 100%, and I suspect that each of their individual charge controllers will independently determine the amount of power it will provide to the batteries.   

In my mind’s eye, it assumes that each of the three charge controllers use battery voltage as their primary source of intel for how much power to send to the batteries.  Since each of the three controllers have different circuitry, and their voltage set points are not necessarily set to the same values, there likely will be different responses to a given battery voltage/SOC.   Additionally, the PD 4060 (with Litho Switch) for sure does not have the standard three step litho charge profiles as does the Renogy and Victron components.

Reminds me of having three fighter pilots from different countries Air Forces trying to fly formation when they each speak different languages and each pilot think he/she is in charge.  Bound to be a crash.  In the above scenario, I called it not “Playing Well Together”.

I interpret your above response, and agree, that at the high end of the battery bank SOC, the three separate charge controllers will eventually hit their charge “back off“ voltage and then will either slow the charge rate or stop charging.  Some call this a Maintenance Mode.  If they each have reverse power protection circuitry/diodes, that should be fine.

But in this scenario, the SOC is at 40%.  The Litho’s are hungry for power.  The big boy (relatively speaking) PD 4060 sets the pace with it’s non-adjustable 14.6V (?) charge voltage and is putting out an actual 56+ amps per my Victron 712.  Would the other two see this as a full charge voltage and go into Maintenance Mode?  Thereby defeating my goal "Warp Drive" using all the power “Scotty” can provide?

If this is the case, they survive well, but don’t play together well.  IF my mind’s eye does not need glasses, then:

  • Will stacking additional solar panel systems each using individual controllers result in the same conclusion? 
  • Would using the same MFG solar panels and controller change their play behavior?
  • Is there a means to effectively use multiple independent power sources (such as listed on our example above) to together efficiently charge the battery bank (play well together)?

GJ

Love your Star Trek metaphor descriptors! I'm absolutely sure your are correct in the different systems not recognizing the real world situation due to different software design and other factors. Best scenario would be all panels feeding through one charge controller and better yet, all the same size panel and brand. 

I'm straight up when I say I can't wait to experiment with the system once I get all components installed. My first thought is I doubt I will use maximum warp drive or ask the system to produce it. I just want as you eluded to in your first response to this topic to have multiple options. In theory I could set this up with all solar sources feeding through the on board charge controller and just have multiple points of input. Although it will be interesting to see what the output is on each charge controller during various scenarios and how they play together. 

There's already a number of folks that have installed the DC-DC chargers on their systems and the truck is charging at a relatively high rate while connected and driving. With the onboard solar panels always on the job in daylight, my guess is they do exactly as you describe and probably remain in a float charge condition with the truck doing the real work of bulk charging, as the DC-DC will allow 14.6 and relatively high charge current. The onboard charge controller would just tell the DC-DC system to have at it big boy! 😆

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2 hours ago, Geronimo John said:

Victron 712 Smart

I would think (meaning I don’t really know in fact) the Victron SmartShunt would have something to do with the balance of varied incoming currents, as each charging source independently completes their respective charge cycles to float, thus allowing them to “play together” to reach full battery bank SOC. 

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GJ - 

I have little knowledge of what your talking about - but - I really do like the WAY you think.

Bill

p.s.  Actually, I wasn't trying to be funny here nor insulting about either my knowledge of the subject nor GJ's way of thinking.

Edited by topgun2
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23 hours ago, Ollie-Haus said:

The solar panel connection from the truck to the camper would be another connection at the bumper to the camper, probably just a simple SAE plug on each end with a 4' tether that would make the connection if and when I need to use that capacity.

I found the SAE connections in my initial install to be unsatisfactory. Either the wires were too stiff, there was too much vibration or a combination thereof, but the plug components would loosen, heat up and disconnect; very frustrating. Since changing to bayonet coupling components, problem solved. This is the set used with my homemade 100ah LFP portable power station for both input and output connections. These, as well as the solar connectors shown below, are also waterproof!

IMG_6442.thumb.png.7fcfcc3d7b463c37271869fa0f9001c7.png

Given the success of this style connector, I purchased a like product to use in my pending exterior solar plug installs, one forward at the propane tank housing and one aft at the basement hatch.

IMG_4772.thumb.jpeg.166b3984e6d80c02b1f662686247b6fe.jpeg

IMG_4770.thumb.jpeg.68e929a431155ce8404c961fecc164cf.jpeg
 

IMG_4769.thumb.jpeg.f7c03c464e5b8416ce581362dd0eb182.jpeg
 

Although the solar port shows 10A, I believe that to be a misnomer.  The lead wires on the reverse side appear to be substantial enough to support a 20A system, and thus fine for use with a 200W solar panel. 

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Along about 30 NOV we sort of hyjacked the flex panel thread into Charging Ollie With Multiple Sources of Power.  Maybe a good time to seperate the threads.

I hate it when I hyjack my own thread......... and then have to ask forgiveness after the fact.  Drats

GJ

 

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TV:  2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Tow, FX-4, Rear Locker      OLLIE:  2018 OE2 Hull 342, Twin Bed.    OLLIE DYI’s:  BB LiFePO4's, Victron 712 Smart, 350 Amp Master Switch, Houghton 3400, Victron Orion DC - DC, 3000-Watt Renogy Inverter, P.D. 60-amp Converter, Frig Dual Exhaust Fans, Kitchen Drawer Straps.    TV DYI’s:  2 5/16" Anderson System, Timken Bearings, Nitto recon’s, Firestone Rear Air Bags, Bilstein 5100’s, Mud Flaps & Weather Tech all.

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I split the thread for you, GJ.

Here's the new thread.

Could you read through both and see the splits make sense to you? 

ps, No need to be contrite. It's your thread, after all. 🙂

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 4/2/2023 at 9:38 AM, SeaDawg said:

Wonder how well it will hold up?

Anything of significant size hanging off Ollie will be subjected to wind loads.  We know where that goes.

I am thinking that wherever we camp there most of the time is lots of ground space. 

I saw, and lost on this forum a new walkable flexible solar panel.  Searched and can't find it now....

Regardless I would think a few rolled sections of it placed on the ground with a few stakes would make a great solar farm.   Being flat on the ground and staked the wind damage concern would be minimal, and it certainly would be a LOT less ugly and heavy than most other systems I have contemplated.

"Ground Solar Wind Farm".  You heard of it right here.

Geronimo John

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TV:  2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Tow, FX-4, Rear Locker      OLLIE:  2018 OE2 Hull 342, Twin Bed.    OLLIE DYI’s:  BB LiFePO4's, Victron 712 Smart, 350 Amp Master Switch, Houghton 3400, Victron Orion DC - DC, 3000-Watt Renogy Inverter, P.D. 60-amp Converter, Frig Dual Exhaust Fans, Kitchen Drawer Straps.    TV DYI’s:  2 5/16" Anderson System, Timken Bearings, Nitto recon’s, Firestone Rear Air Bags, Bilstein 5100’s, Mud Flaps & Weather Tech all.

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There have been a number of "walkable" flex panels, marketed to the boat market, where deck space is often the best spot for sun. 

Haven't seen any great reviews, though. (Even though on deck were usually wearing dedicated/aka no grit caught in soles, or barefoot.)

I think newPowa was one of them tested by a well known sailing youtube couple. I'll see what I can find, gj.

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Florida and Western North Carolina, or wherever the truck goes....

400 watts solar. DC compressor fridge. No inverter. 2 x 105 ah agm batteries .  Life is good.


        
 

 

 

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34 minutes ago, SeaDawg said:

I think nuPowa was one if them tested by a well known sailing youtube couple.

I read a post last week about a new highly flexible and walkable solar panel.  It was a small hijack to another topic, but related. 

Anybody know where it is on the forum?  Would like to get it moved over toe the Flexible Solar Panel topic.  

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TV:  2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Tow, FX-4, Rear Locker      OLLIE:  2018 OE2 Hull 342, Twin Bed.    OLLIE DYI’s:  BB LiFePO4's, Victron 712 Smart, 350 Amp Master Switch, Houghton 3400, Victron Orion DC - DC, 3000-Watt Renogy Inverter, P.D. 60-amp Converter, Frig Dual Exhaust Fans, Kitchen Drawer Straps.    TV DYI’s:  2 5/16" Anderson System, Timken Bearings, Nitto recon’s, Firestone Rear Air Bags, Bilstein 5100’s, Mud Flaps & Weather Tech all.

  image.jpeg.9633acdfb75740f0fd358e1a5118f105.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

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