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What a Great TC Surprise! New TC Owner

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Hello all... Another newbie to the forum and the van. Bought a 2020 new, after finding used 2019's here had 85k miles on them. 2017's with 180k miles! Wow. So, new with all of 40. I am a Master Tech, who is mobile. Was semi-retired, having come to the island I'm on sailing to Trinidad. Stopped here in 2012 and fell in love with "paradise", and never moved on. I am on the very small (12 long by x 4 miles wide) island of Vieques, which is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands, and technically a "city" of Puerto Rico. Prior to coming down, I had just finished running and flying commercial helicopters on a bunch of government contracts, and on the side was an engineering consultant. Of course, once a tech, always a tech, because friends and family (minimum) will need you for this or that. And, during my "staging" for my yachting expedition, I served in the field and online as "The Boat Doctor". I have even had stints working with and for NASA technologies.

 

I bought the TC in a hurry, as my poor old 2003 Chevy Astro (cargo) van leaks too much for me to keep up with, and it started to trash tools. NOT something I can allow. That thing has 73,000 original miles, but has still be re-done rear axle to front bumper. A week before the scramble to get the TC, is had all new suspension put in it, even though the old stuff wasn't that bad yet. It has been modified to a full one-ton cargo. The only problem is the body. 2003 vintage "island vehicle". Cancer EVERYWHERE. If it were not for frame members, I'd have fallen through the floor already! The roof has an array of "solar windows" thanks to acrylic patches over the holes up there! Can't keep them from leaking any more. So, it has now been re-designated as a "solar panel cargo transport" and will be re-assigned to a position on the main island of Puerto Rico, where I will no longer have to ferry it back and forth on a cargo ferry to get materials.

 

So, I had to make choices really fast, after spending a day salvaging tools I found in a drowned tool box in the old van. Jumped online and started reading! Watching YouTube videos and such. For a time, the winner of the search was a Dodge ProMaster City. I decided to go with a compact van, mainly due to pricing down here and being able to do all but move solar panels from something the size of a Suzuki Grand Vitara (the little backup vehicle). The PMC has more interior bed length than the TC SWB. The TC LWB has a premium addon price down here, and there were actually NONE on the main island in a cargo package when I started making the dozens of calls looking for what and where.

 

Then I ran across some disturbing info on the Dodge I had missed from the start. IT'S A FIAT! Made in Turkey. "No thank you." Means all parts and such are going to be "import" two times over here. AND, no way I trust any of the tranny techs in PR to know how to deal with that transmission. Not enough experience in my book. I don't care if Dodge is standing behind it. I WAS a dealer tech for a time and know those guys are nothing different than any other tech floating around, just better resources WHILE you are in the dealership, for the brand you are working for. Does not change what you know. We're all educated outside of that environment, and then get supplemental (usually self-taught) information, while you work there. Stay there long enough and you may actually be an "expert" one day.

 

So, looked at the Nissan 200 stuff. What a wimpy little van that is. And I'm sorry... "butt ugly" too. Because of the rush, I ended up with a stock LX Cargo with 2.0 and the only addon was a very nice black plastic factory safety partition, I had to remove to get more tool room (suck out into side door space). Since the bulk of the population on this island lives in a six mile by four mile rectangular zone, a 2.0 motor is fine. And I was very nicely surprised when I found out, fully loaded, it still gets up and goes better than my empty 2.4 liter motor in my Vitara. Gas mileage is to die for. Since buying the van, and all the miles chocked up, only filled it twice(full now), and added "some" gas once. It is now October 4th, and I bought it August 29th! One and a half tanks so far!

 

The only flaw in this thing is ground clearance. And the nice (for city) tires that are too small. Thus the search that brought me to this forum to see who had put on bigger tires with no clearance problems, to confirm what my match said should be possible. Found the EXACT tires I want to install, on the same Gen 2 van with no problems. Tires next... BTW, they are Genral Grabber AT 2's @ 215/65R 16 for those who don't want to search. I need them for the same reason the poster did. Mud. Lots of mud around here. LOL... Most of the island is real tropical jungle.

 

Anyway, love the little TC. Ended up being like a Christmas present to myself once I started driving it. Love the cargo doors on all sides like you can't believe! The electronics are cool, the air conditioning is downright freezing, and the phone app is just icing on the cake. Here it gets in the 90's by 8:00 AM, so scheduling a start to have the van cool before I even get out the door is something my wife seriously envy's at this point! LOL...

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Welcome and quite an interesting journey.  LOL my TC wagon is about the only vehicle I have that wasn't bought in a hurry.  I actually took my time and searched for the right stuff and good price.  Tire are a frequent topic here, I haven't looked into any alternatives as don't drive it a lot and don't need extra ground clearance.

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There's a russian kit on ebay to raise the ground clearence by 30 or 40 mm that seems nice. I believe someone on this forum has installed it.

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Welcome and good choice - I too think the Connect looks the best by far in comparison to the Promaster and especially the NV200.

 

Once you size up your tires for clearance and traction, you can reprogram your ECU to the new tire circumference for free using the forscan.org software (on a windows laptop) and an appropriate OBD2 adapter. Can do a lot more than that too for customizing settings and features.

 

Interesting background, thanks for sharing. Any advice for someone looking to going into business for themselves? I just quit my corporate job (mechanical engineering) and will be enjoying some leisure time, but after that I'll need to work on developing an income stream and don't really see myself going back to being an employee again if I can help it.

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Working on your own is definitely nice, but hard to find a niche. I was lucky when I landed here I was the only one with my skill set, so they wouldn't let me leave! Been that way for 8 years now, so I finally decided I'm here for the duration, and time to upgrade. But wasn't expecting to have to rush it. Choice turned out like winning the lottery. I like going to work just so I can enjoy the van! LOL... I definitely "prefer" the air conditioned office, but being out and about keeps me healthy and fit, and opposed to fat and unhealthy, so I just think of it as "workout".  As an Engineer, I don't get much call for that beyond designing solar systems client by client now. An occasional call from installers on the main island is a few bucks here and there. Just lucked out with my little corner of the world needing exactly what I can do. In the past it was a mix.

 

Came on here tonight to search for anyone who's lifted one of these at least a little. Was NOT happy today when I lost some paint from the bottom of the door because it hit the sidewalk opening it. Haven't heard that sound since I gave my Fiat 124 Sport to my son! I said to myself today, "No way... This thing REALLY this low?" May have to get something else for those (rare) jobs on the top of the hill. Afraid to even try going there at this point. Had some time at Ford, so hoping I can find something to put in and get my connections to sign off on it without hurting the warranty.

 

Thanks to you all for the input and the welcome!

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From what I've seen, without forging a new path going custom you're limited to increasing tire diameter like with the Grabbers you saw and Gideon's comment about the spacer kit. I'd be interested in feedback on how the spacer kit might end up negatively impact handling or long term suspension component durability, just haven't seen much out there as few people with these vans are doing much modification (camper conversions excluded) other than the aesthetic/lowering crowd in the UK/Europe.

Cool, I like to read about people's professional journey even if it was a lot of luck, it's interesting. Sounds like you've got yourself a good gig.

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On 10/5/2020 at 4:27 PM, connectvanplans said:

Once you size up your tires for clearance and traction, you can reprogram your ECU to the new tire circumference for free using the forscan.org software (on a windows laptop) and an appropriate OBD2 adapter.

 

Not so much. There are only a few size options presented, at least in my version of Forscan, and none are as large circumference as the General Grabber AT2's that I put on. I ended up leaving the tire size alone in the computer and calculating the size difference to 5.4%-5.9%, if I remember right. 70 dash indicated is 74 to sometimes 75 on GPS. 

 

As a sidenote, my AT2's have about 58K miles on them now and measure out to 6/32", 2x 7/32", and 8/32" - new is 14/32", for reference. I haven't gotten stuck with these like I did a few times with the original Conti's, lol.

 

As far as carrying solar panels, you could add a roof/ladder rack like I also did - though I did it for general long stuff, not solar panels in particular. I think I paid about $130 for the kit on Amazon. Obviously, SP's won't weigh as much as these pallet racks, so you won't have any trouble carrying them. I took these home 12 miles at up to 70MPH, no shifting or weird noises, no bowing/sagging, etc. Good & stout! I spaced them far apart, max distance on factory holes, specifically because I knew I'd be bringing home 12ft long beams, so I didn't want a lot of overhang from having the bars too close together. The green uprights are 10ft tall/long for an idea of spacing on my LWB; 8ft items will still fit and have some overhang at each end. These vans have 5 pairs of holes from the factory, so you could space them how you want or even get a 3-bar kit instead of 2-bar for more versatility. Just some useful ideas!

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21 minutes ago, jrm223 said:

Not so much. There are only a few size options presented, at least in my version of Forscan, and none are as large circumference as the General Grabber AT2's that I put on. I ended up leaving the tire size alone in the computer and calculating the size difference to 5.4%-5.9%, if I remember right. 70 dash indicated is 74 to sometimes 75 on GPS.  

 

jrm - update your Forscan version, they have a custom selection menu now that covers all possible tire circumferences in increments of 5mm. I remember when I first downloaded it mid 2018 and they only had the 4 or so circumference selections that didn't quite match the 215/65 size so that's likely the issue.

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Well, the two closest options for my 215/65R16 GG AT2's were 2140mm and 2145mm. Doing some brief testing the other night, 70 on the dash with 2140mm showed 72MPH on GPS and 2145mm showed 68MPH on GPS. I ended up going with 2140mm so I can match the dash to posted speed limit and actually be doing roughly 2MPH over. Before changing it, 70 on the dash was 74MPH on the GPS because of the larger tires. "Dash" refers to both the actual speedometer gauge and the MPH setting on my ScanGauge II. My tires do have 58K miles now, so a fresh set of tires will have a little more circumference on them and would probably get closer to an accurate reading with 2145mm setting, I bet. 

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I'm going to be installing the 30mm strut spacers and 215/65R16 BFG KO2's at the end of the month on mine. After getting the ECU updated (done a few months ago on my 2014), I can confirm that there are many tire size options on forscan and even one to input a custom size.

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I should have taken actual written notes that first night of quick 2140/2145mm testing, lol. They're actually both way too large for my 58K mile tires. 1955mm (OEM Gen 2 spec) x 1.054 correction factor = 2060.57mm, 2145mm x 0.96 correction factor = 2059.2mm. I changed my BCM to 2060mm last night, but haven't driven anywhere yet to verify correct speed. The 0.96 correction factor came from my drive home from my project house on Monday using the 2145mm setting, 84 miles known-distance and the tripmeter showed 87.5 miles for the drive home. I only changed the circumference since I couldn't find anywhere in the 'tire size' setting to input the "Customer Tire Size" option (word-for-word, customer not custom) in Forscan 2.3.35 beta. I see 2.3.36 is now available, so I'll update it, again and try playing with that setting some time because I'm getting a P0422 error, "Invalid data sent to PCM" - I'm guessing the circumference being too large for the factory tire size. But, the speedometer does still use the circumference that I set to affect the speedometer/odometer, despite the error. 

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On 10/12/2020 at 7:56 PM, mbrint said:

I'm going to be installing the 30mm strut spacers and 215/65R16 BFG KO2's at the end of the month on mine. After getting the ECU updated (done a few months ago on my 2014), I can confirm that there are many tire size options on forscan and even one to input a custom size.

 

Nice, can you let us know how the spacers and tire combo turns out after some time?

 

7 hours ago, jrm223 said:

I should have taken actual written notes that first night of quick 2140/2145mm testing, lol. They're actually both way too large for my 58K mile tires. 1955mm (OEM Gen 2 spec) x 1.054 correction factor = 2060.57mm, 2145mm x 0.96 correction factor = 2059.2mm. I changed my BCM to 2060mm last night, but haven't driven anywhere yet to verify correct speed. The 0.96 correction factor came from my drive home from my project house on Monday using the 2145mm setting, 84 miles known-distance and the tripmeter showed 87.5 miles for the drive home. I only changed the circumference since I couldn't find anywhere in the 'tire size' setting to input the "Customer Tire Size" option (word-for-word, customer not custom) in Forscan 2.3.35 beta. I see 2.3.36 is now available, so I'll update it, again and try playing with that setting some time because I'm getting a P0422 error, "Invalid data sent to PCM" - I'm guessing the circumference being too large for the factory tire size. But, the speedometer does still use the circumference that I set to affect the speedometer/odometer, despite the error. 

 

To figure the circumference, I took the total millimeters in a mile, 1609344mm divided by the tire specification revs/mi, for me was 783 which resulted in 2055mm. For the 215/65/16 Grabbers rated at 772 revs/mi it would be 2085mm.

From the screenshot I posted in my tire thread, the forscan revision I was on was 2.3.34 and the input for custom tire dimension in the central Configuration Main program menu is 9 rows below the "Tire circumference" shown as "Tire dimension" where you can select "use custom tire dimension".

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2085mm would be brand new tires. Remember that the diameter & circumference gets smaller as the tires wear, which is why my calculations show 2060mm since my tires have around 58K miles on them now. But when it's time for a new set, I'll kick it back up to 2085.

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Been slammed busy so had no time to get on here and see all the great info added... 

 

jrm223 I WANT YOUR TIRES! But, so far no joy here. Shortly I am making a run to the main island of Puerto Rico (I live on a small island called Vieques) to go on an over-night adventure (if needed) to find some. Seriously doubt there will be any, but have to look. Being "over seas", we don't get vendors who want to ship things like racks and tires down here!

 

But I NEED tires better than these jokes of Conti's on there now! These things are a serious safety threat for me. Twice now I have slid down what are normal residential hills (paved streets) simply due to the fact there was a puddle with "brown water" in it. Not a mud bog, just dirty water! The last time almost cost me the van! I went through the puddle and started up the hill. Tried to be a little more agressive than a previous attempt (I admit I was trying to "tractor" it up slowly that time). The slight running start did let me get about 30% higher, but then this time when the wheels started to spin, the van went backwards before I had a chance to back off the throttle. I lightly applied brakes to stop but it kept going. More brake pressure and no change. Full brake pressure and no change. This time it was all four wheels not holding, and I was able to get the car behind me to back down in a hurry before we hit and bounced me over the side! The time before, I just could not climb at all after about 50 feet up the incline, so I wasn;t sliding all the way down the hill! The hill is moderately steep. Nothing a regular car can't go up with regular tires. My Suzuki (non-4x4) goes up it all of the time! ANd I have been on much steeper in San Francisco. The tires... with front wheel drive, a "cargo load" in the rear, a hill, and water, and you're in danger! WHAT THE HECK WAS FORD THINKING HERE???? I am used to the concept of "take offs" when you buy a new vehicle, but in this case YOU CAN'T TAKE THEM OFF! There is no other choice for the "recommended" size tire than what comes on the van, thus we're all going after these 215-65r-16 tires. This was clearly "a deal" between Ford and Conti! A joke for us. Wish me luck on the tires... At least I know buying the Promaster City would have been the same issue... same sized tire, front wheel drive, and "choked" fender wells. So, at least I can still be happy with the rest of my little van, and not wish I had bought the Fiat.

 

I finally did put up a rack on top, but had to fabricate my own kit. I live on a small island apart from Puerto Rico, so NONE of the vendors anywhere would ship a rack kit down here. I tried every source I could find over about a week searching. Finally gave up. MY new rack is a simple construction but worked out to be a lot tougher than I was going for. When I carry solar panels, to avoid damage (they like to slide around a lot if stacked), I carry them on the edges, which means they go inside. My Astro is now designated for panel transport and is otherwise empty at this point, when I need to do a warehouse run. It has been modified to one-ton, and can fit 30 panels inside. When I get the panels on this island (from PR) the Transit moves no more than 6 at a time, so I don't need to unload most of my tool boxes, plus the space with the passenger seat folded forward is about all I have to play with at a floor length of about 74 inches. 60 cell panels fit completely inside. 72 cell panels stick out the right door; left door closes fine. I have two vertical columns inside that the panels strap to in order to keep them secured upright. Being here, I travel no more than four miles in any direction, so it does not matter about multiple trips at six at a time. 

 

My rack is just two cross bars for my Gorilla ladder. It is one of those convertible A-frame types that unfold and become an extension ladder. Six foot a-frame can become a 26 foot tall single span. The rack is two 5 foot pieces of stainless unistrut (used for electrical conduit) we took from a dump site after tearing down power conduit on a cell tower that was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. Never thought they'd end up in this kind of use. To go along with the trim of the van, I went ahead and painted all but the very tops (where ladder meets their metal) with black paint. As the van in pre-drilled, this made it easy to just stack three pieces of 1" square aluminum tube I had laying around on top of one another to make the corner supports for the rails. There is a single Grade 8 bolt going through the stack, and tightened pretty good. I layered the stack in a pyramid configuration to keep the whole thing from trying to lean forward or back. The compression of the bolt and slight angle the stack sits has made and side to side movement a non-issue. 

 

I think at this point I'd do serious damage to the roof pan before anything will be loose or move on the rack. The ladder weighs all of 50 pounds, so I'm nicely over built for what I need. The only other thing that goes up there are the solar panel mounting rails, and they are just aluminum.

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Sometimes you have to MacGyver it, work with what you've got! At least that rack has worked out well for you and probably cost next to nothing, to boot.

 

I'm tired of the MPG hit from mine now (21.45MPG with the larger tires & ladder rack, I think it was 23-ish without the rack - I'm in rural Texas, 70-75MPH speed limits in my area), so I'll be replacing the standard bolt & nut setup with nutserts this week, maybe today, so I can install & remove the rack as needed with just one tool to make things easy on myself. My van is sort of a Swiss Army knife for me; I need it to do lots of different things, so it has to be somewhat modular & adaptable, haha. 

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I "had" been doing the same thing with my Astro, as I am the ONLY Master Tech here. Fortunate for these folks I have seven Master certs in different areas, so that van had to cover them all. This one just won't quite make it room wise, so the wife has let me re-populate the spare room with tools and equipment (she's Puerto Rican, so was against that before - LOL). Max speed on the island is 45 in only a couple of places, so the rack is only affecting my 20.2 MPG average down to 20.0 since putting it together. That whole thing, like you said, cost me less than $60.

 

I now have BF Goodrich Advantage T/A Sport radials, 215-60R-16. Every tire on the main island of 215-65R-16 did not have aggressive "enough" tread. These are not mud and snow like yours (for some reason they say AT2 is not for "severe snow" - and read where someone hated them for that), but are good enough for where I'd have clearance to go. They are Rally racing tires. Mine are 95V, but I've seen they come in 98T. Preferred the 95 in hopes they'd "squish" a little and give me better traction on odd surfaces, but at 35 PSI they're still tall and hard. "Firm", as one of the reviews put it. Now I realize, even at 98H, the Conti's were "cushy". Went from a CAR to a TRUCK - LOL... 

 

My hill climb problem solved, they now go up with ease, where I slid down "with ease" (LOL). Tried them in really driving rain there, as we have a tropical storm on one side and a new one forming on the other side of us, so here is the same as any tropical storm, but lasting much longer. LOVE these tires. Not as noisy as yours would be, so a tiny benefit. The slight shift in height has my front bumper no longer scraping the street backing into my driveway, which I can't believe it took such a small change to correct. Have yet to re-program for size, but may not as average driving is 35 mph here, and I don't have to worry about Texas State Troopers! LOL...

 

Ignore my red hub cap stripes... LOL... Very dark roads here at night; blind driveways and drunks. Those stripes are reflective, and from a motorcycle striping kit.

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I'm familiar with those reflective striping kits; not even two feet away from me right now, I still have a leftover roll of 1/4" straight tape from a motorcycle I had before moving to Texas, haha. That's a smart thing to have in a lot of areas!

 

I don't ever use A/C, so my windows are basically always open. So I hardly even notice "extra road & wind noise" like most people would complain about with the tires & rack, lol. That said, I did take the rack off the other day and put nutserts in the roof, so now it's a one-tool (-ish, M8 front & M10 back, I should have just drilled the fronts larger for M10 also) affair to put them back on when needed. Also filled up yesterday so I can get a new MPG baseline since I also recently corrected the speedo error with the larger tires, thus how I verified the 21.45 MPG with tires & rack on. I think I was getting around 23 before the rack, but we'll see. 

 

Tape sort of gives a Tron-esque appearance at night, haha. Flash was used to 'light it up' in this old pic. 

 

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