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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Prius Brakes Do Last 100,000 Miles

I had a coupon for a reduced cost oil change at the dealer I use.

I wanted the oil changed and tire rotation.

While waiting for them to finish, the service representative came over and said he wanted to show me something in my car.

He andvthe mechanic slowed me that my brakes were getting thin.  3-4 mm of pad was left.  Nothing that required immediate attention, but good to know.  He said I’ll save you some money by turning the discs.  I said thanks.

I asked what the cost was knowing that I do my own brakes.

He came back saying that the front brakes would be $333 and the rear $364.  (They are disc brakes all around).  Then he said the engine air filter needed to be replaced for $48 and the cabin air filter too for 58.

I just smiled and said I wouldn’t be able to spend the additional $800 today.  I explained that Toyota was right that Prius brakes last 100,000 miles as my Prius has 98,500 miles.

They were right that in the near future I would need new brakes.  I decided to just do it this pm since it was going to rain and I could do it in the garage.

PS: (8/13/18) My friend David, who has much more knowledge about Prius maintenance than I do, wrote to me after my original post.

He cautions that some people who have changed their own brake pads have had problems doing it.  I checked online and did find some postings about getting error codes and one where the brake system activated pressure from sensing the fob.  Although I didn’t remove the 12 volt battery power before performing my work and I have not seen any codes or problems, it is good practice to remove 12 v power as the Prius is a sophisticated computer system and we know not what it all does.

End of PS

The rotors were in very good shape withvery little rust and heat disapating vanes are clear.  Turning wouldn’t hurt the but it wasn’t necessary.

I bought the disc pads for all 4 brakes.  It cost $120.
I took the calipers apart and checked the pins to make sure they moved freely.  I then replaced the front pads.

I then moved to the rear brakes.  I use a “C” clamp to push in the caliper piston on all other disc changes in the past, but in the rear this didn’t work.

I went to YouTube for direction to find that the rear pistons need to to turned back into themselves.  Below is the tool that is needed to put in my 3/8” drive socket wrench.

This tool cost $13.00 (below)

The tool is designed to adjust 6 different type of calipers as each side has a set of different placement and type of pins.

I used the tool and finishedvthecrear brakes.

I then checked the filters and both were in good shape and nothing that my airhose couldn’t address to clean them.

In the end I paid.

$120 for brake parts
  $13 for brake tool
$133 totalnpaid for about a $800 quote

The tools used are 
- lug wrench
- jack
- jack stand
- 14mm socket for 3/8” wrench below
- torque wrench
- bladed screwdriver (remove / replace brake pad guides)
- caliper piston adjuster
- 3/8” socket wrench and 3” extension 
- large “C” clamp
- possibly a hammer to loosen bolts

Prius dwellers have a choice in maintaining their vehicles.  Even if a small show was 1/2 the price you can save by learning g how to do it yourself.

Although, I have done brakes manybtime in many vehicles I have had my Prius since 8,000 miles and I knew that around 100,000 miles I would need to do them.

Always consult proper technical information before attempting repairs on your vehicle.  Ensure you have and use appropriate safety equipment.  When in doubt bring your vehicle to a trained mechanic.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Vehicle Comparison including RAV4 & Highlander

Hi folks,

Since getting home from this year’s travels I have been very busy around the house getting many things done. My thoughts have been with vandwellers having linked up with two couples in MA.  I took a short trip for a long weekend getaway in ME too.

Some time ago, I was asked to include the RAV4 and Highlander in my blog.  The following is a reader of this blog’s question.

“I am interested in buying Rav4 or Highlander. Could you please compare these cars totally grade with your 3 cars ?
thanks a lot”

Below is the Toyota RAV4 I caught at an event.

Although I have never owned a RAV4 I have gone to the showroom many times to look at them.  Why?

Answer: For all the things I love about the Prius and all the things I don’t like about the Prius.  If I hadn’t my Tacoma or found a Fleet shell model I suspect I would be in a RAV4 today for my travels.  

First, is ground clearance and the RAV4 gives me better ground clearance over my 2011 Prius and the newer Prius that is yet again a bit closer to the ground.  

Look up Ruby, AZ on Google and see that I drive the road from Nogales to Ruby only to get there and couldn’t get over s cattle guard that had too large of a drop off on the other side.  My Prius would have hung and gotten stuck on top of the guard.  

Ruby Road is leftbto right at top of picture.  The cattle guard is on Ruby Access Rd.  (Brown rectangle) can only go over guard crossing.

So, follow the map from Ruby to Arivarca.  A few miles north of Ruby the road crosses a wash.  The water wasn’t high, but the ridges left in the road from moving water made it impassable for the Prius to continue to Arivarca 

Above this is the section of Ruby Road on way to Arivarca with pin drops in both sides of the road Prius couldn’t get through without hanging on sandbars.

Fail!  But the Prius does well in so many other ways but so does the RAV4.  For me it has to be the hybrid RAV4 to fill in for the Prius and it does.  Drawbacks of the RAV4?  Yes.  The current RAV4 hybrid has a battery bump to design around, but I can design compensat for that.  Any other issues? Yes. The RAV4 hybrid is not true all wheel drive.  After reviewing the design of the AWD it does not matter to me that the front wheels are powered by the engine and back are powered by the electric motor.  Heck the Prius doesn’t have AWD

Now to the Highlander and yes the hybrid version.

Below is a Toyota Highlander picture I took from a Google search.

I owned an older non- hybrid highlander and although nice and more room, I don’t care.  I’m good in my Prius for room and don’t need more at the cost of lower mpg that doesn’t make sense.

So, as you can tell.  I have an opiolnion.

This year at the RTR I met up with my friend Susan from Oklahoma and her new RAV4 and installed a solar panel that I would be proud to have on my RAV4.

You can’t tell it’s there and you passively charge lithium battery so you don’t have to run the engine.  Susan’s RAV4 is not hybrid and she gets all the solar she needs from 80 watts and can set up to charge her lithium battery when she drives if she wishes.

An additional testimony is directly from me as Susan followed me and my Tacoma with FWC camper up and down roads that were challenging.  Yes this is true and I was sold on the RAV4 since I left Utah at the end of March.

Am I still a Prius guy.  Yes I love my Prius but one day it will need replacing.  The RAV4 is the only vehicle I would replace it with right now


Friday, June 1, 2018

A Test Of My 30 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 Battery

I had bought a 50 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery for my FWC camper for this year’s (2018) travels.  I figured I would want more than 30 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery I used as my house battery in the Prius.  The reason for the larger battery was that the camper had vent fans, more lighting, and more things to charge.  

The 50 Ah was great this year and even with heavy cloudy conditions I got .5 amps charging from my 170 watt solar.  I guess that I could have used the 30 Ah battery but decided to have it as a backup.  In the end I didn't use the 30 Ah at all.

I decided to conduct a test of the 30 Ah battery (before returning it to the Prius as the house battery) and a 900 watt inverter to make iced tea in my iced tea maker that uses 750 watts. (Setup in picture below)

For the technical inclined the 900 watt MSW inverter is set up with 4 gauge wire 24” long.

The Bioenno manual for the battery states 30 amps continuous with max 90 amps for 2 seconds only.

My test with the 750 watt draw used 64.8 amps continuous for the full brewing cycle.  This is about 10 minutes.

The voltage dropped to 11.47 volts during the 64.8 amp draw.

When the brewing cycle was done the battery rested at 13.17 volts. (It started at 13.3 volts). 

Since I was using 64.8 Ah from the battery it would have been fully depleted in about 20 minutes.  So my test used about 1/2 of the battery’s capacity or 15 Ah.

If charging with the 10 amp charger from Bioenno, or 10 amps from my 170 watt solar panel, it would fully charge in a bit over 1.5 hours.

I contacted Bioenno and asked if it was ok for the battery to be subject to this high of a current draw considering the specs stating 30 amps continuous.  Bioenno said it was ok for me to draw this higher amperage the way I did.

Bioenno makes great LiFePo4 batteries and their technical support is very responsive.  Remember that once the  battery is depleted it automatically shuts off to protect itself.

The purpose of this high current test is to confirm that the Bioenno LiFePo4 batteries can run a 600 microwave like the one below from Amazon and be recharged with solar or other charger.

Although I may not run a small microwave.  The battery has the technical ability to do it.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Conclusion On Vandwelling Vehicle Experience

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I have looked at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.  I now share what I plan on using next year 2019 Travels.

What I vehicle will I use next year:

Since I don’t have the Class B what is in the picture is my Tacoma/FWC or my Prius.

I actually like driving the Prius more than the Tacoma. The Prius is more cost effective, but it can’t get me off road to places I still want to go.  Overall I rated the Prius better too.

I have thought about the gas prices going up in this analysis, but I want to go back to Utah and go off road to see more sights.

Therefore, I pick the Tacoma/FWC camper for 2019 and I’ll live with the added fuel costs.  I think I can get at least 1 mpg more next year by reducing weight of what I carried.  Using 1013 gallons of gasoline this year means saving 1 mpg I’ll get to travel 1000 miles free.  So this is my goal to offset the rising cost of fuel. 

I’m sure I can save 1 mpg with the reduction of things I take next year.  

I’m not giving up my Prius.  In fact, I’m already putting back the 12v things I took out and used in the Truck/Camper and didn’t end up using.  The Prius will be able to be put into vandweller service if I want to take a trip or attend a gathering.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Didn’t I Use - 3 Vehicle Comparison

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I will look at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.

If you have questions you would like answered please let me know.

What I didn’t use:

The Class B has a lot of things I didn’t use on the trip. 

- A/C - lack of need - Jan, Feb, March
- 3-way fridge - had my Engel fridge and 3-way fridge is inefficient and a pain to switch over from 12 v tonpropane and back every time I move.  Also a pain having to level the rig to get it to run right.
- Flush Toilet (black water) - seemed like too much work so I bagged my waste. I did use gray water.
- Dinette - used as full-time bed and slept diagonal. Roll over couch as bed required me to set up each night, bunk bed was to hard to get in and out 
- Bunk Bed - used as storage for soft items
- propane furnace - used too much 12 v power - would require me to find a place to plug in or run my Harbor Freight noisy generator.
- portable generator- only used a couple times on trip

I used every spacebin the Prius I had and used everything as I brought little extra.

- misc items - I had or collected that I didn’t want to carry I mailed home - no extra room so mail stuff home
- winter coat - mailed home when March came - my last year in the Prius I bought a down coat that was packable so I didn’t need to carry this winter coat anymore.

- 12 volt parts - I brought wire of different sizes, as well as various crimps, and other items in a plastic tote that I kept behind the drivers seat in my extended cab that I brought in case I could help people build out their rig but didntbuse them.
- back country backpack and all the related equipment.  Joanne and I had wanted to take a back country hike but the weather didn’t cooperate so we passed this year.  The full backpack was stored behind the passenger seat in the extended cab.
- awning materials- I thought I would make an awning for the rear of the camper while on the trip - I never worked on it.
- variety of tools - I brought a couple tool bags - one smaller bag I used a lot as it had common items and what I carried in the Prius - the other tool bag had some tools not used and a couple that I only used a couple times.
- bunk bed - I used it only a few times choosing to sleep on the lower bench bed.  It was cold many nights and to retain heat I would lower the roof.  I would raise the roof for washing, cooking, and having visitors.  

What I didn’t use, In Summary:
(The higher the number the more I used of what I brought with me.)

Class B - 3
Prius - 9
Tacoma - 4


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fun Factor - Q’s & A’s

Rainbow Arch National Monument 2018


I appreciate questions, and Happy Runner, who initiated the blog sequence with his original question about “Fun Factor”, has followed up with some great observations.  I will be giving you the insights regarding his thoughts, from my trip this year.

Note that I am more a technical writer than one to write of self, feelings, and deep thoughts.  Happy Runner’s follow up to my original post are right on with his perceptions, and I feel that it is well worth all knowing the answers.

My answers are marked A: throughout the text with my comments under the answers started with -


[Brent's Travels] New comment on Fun Factor - Has It Waned?.

Happy Runner has left a new comment on your post "Fun Factor - Has It Waned?": 

I'm honored that you took the time to respond to my question with a such a complete answer. I had asked because, being a long-time reader, it seemed like things weren't as exciting for you this year, starting with RTR. Not to be an arm-chair psychiatrist, but your post talks mostly about years before this one!!

A: You are correct.  There was a lot going on in the background of my mind and body this year’s travels (2018).  No, this year didn’t beat last year’s fantastic hikes.  I agree that it must have shown in my writing.  

- This year I suffered a lot of mixed feelings about moving from the Prius to the Tacoma/FWC.  I hadn’t had a time to have tested out my camper or finish what I wanted before I left.  I was missing the Prius travels even before I left in the truck.  I did have fun building out the camper shell to what I wanted and that was fun.  

- I kept telling myself you will get to go to places the Prius can’t go.  Remember last year how bad Escalante was and you hadvtobrent the Jeep for $250 for a day to get to The Wave.  Oh, yes I know I would say as an appeasement to myself.  

- I was told by family and friends that you will have more room and that will be good, the Prius is so cramped.  I would mildly agree, not wanting a debate.  I knew it wasn’t about space for me that mattered.  You Prius folks out there know that I had plenty of space as I engineered my Prius to utilize space.

- There we’re supporting comments for the truck camper, but I felt they were based on the stigma of living in a car more than anything else.  Somehow some family and  friends feel living in the camper is more legitimized than “a car”.

- Yes the 4x4 truck can go places the Prius can’t, but was that enough to offset the great time I had in the Prius?  I suffered mixed feelings throughout the trip too.  It wasn’t like moving from the Class B to the Prius as there was no way I was going in the Class B a second time, but it was more feeling torn.  I would say to myself if the truck/camper doesn’t work, just sell it.

- So now you know I was uneasy about my travels this year with the truck/camper from the very start.

- The RTR was a disappointment for me because of its size.  I didn’t get to spend quality social time with some longer time friends.  It was just too far to get to anyone and main meeting area (mile walk one way).  The RTR was nice at a few hundred people vs a few thousand.  Right now I’m 50/50 on going to the RTR next year.  The move to the new BLM area could be good or bad.

- While at the RTR and for a few weeks after I had foot pain that was absolutely debilitating and it wouldn’t go away.  I doubted I would be able to stay on the road for 4 months.  I eventually figured it may be plantar fasciitis and was able to resolve the majority of the problems with jell inersoles.

I'm sure that part of the fun is learning, with everything being new -- seeing a problem or something that could be made better, and figuring out (engineering) a solution that makes life better or more comfortable. As time goes on, those opportunities become less and less.

A: Correct again.  You must have studied my blog well.  I love the problem, evaluation, design, and solution build.  There were more I could have done with the Tacoma/FWC while on the road but I sought out to help others.  

- I became a bit complacent with the camper having spent so many hours with the build before I left.

- I separate my travels into sections. 
- January - RTR / Visit CA Son and family/ Tucson conditioning hiking & disc golf
- February - touring Southern AZ, Southern CA, Southern NV & hiking, Disc golf with friends (if time permits get a preseason baseball game in too)
- March - Utah touring and Hiking with friends
- April - head East, visit aunt in Chicago, attend the SE GTG, visit cousin, visit MD son and family, disc golf before heading home.

- Although I have a general focus for my travel time, I enjoy having alone time and time with friends, and willing to alter plans for the special thing.

- I was bummed this year because the spring weather didn’t come to Utah until the end of March.  Originally I was going to go to the Escalante area of south central UT but the weather made Escalante a bad choice for a couple reasons.  Wet roads in Escalante on slickrock makes for a day of not moving, also its elevation results in more snow.  After seeing the weather was not changing, Joanne and I decided to go to Southeastern UT, as we could be from 4000 ft to 8000 ft depending on the weather.  Snow was typical above 6000 ft from the storefronts.  This area gave us the ability to still explore but stay below the snowline.

I had a selfish reason for asking -- I'm definitely into Prius camping having spent 95 nights last year and am hopefully on track to a similar amount this year. Unlike you, my camping is "stealth urban" as I follow a college softball time I like, as well as flee to warmer weather for weeks of triathlon training (swim, bike, run). It also urban because I need a strong Internet connection to work.

- Ah the Prius is just great for stealthing.  I got good at it, but when out west I don’t need it as much and the truck/camper got me access to new places.  The east coast it’s needed.

- Internet service.  I was also down in March due to lack of internet.  Joanne carries both AT&T and Verizon and she has service where I don’t, as I only carry AT&T.  What I couldn’t figure out was that Joanne’s old Samsung 3 had AT&T service at times when my IPhone 7 had nothing.  I am working on addressing this now.  This will be aseparate post. 

The camping has been fun as well as the "game" of staying under the radar. My innovations go not only to making the camping more comfortable, but also to being more stealthy. It's still a thrill of living a "secret life" right under people's noses, but I asked the question since my "engineering" is becoming less needed and I was wondering how I might feel in another few years.

A; Yes That is me.  Ah, someone like me, liking the chase but when you get there there is a feeling of loss.
I have switch to help others when I can.  I brought tools and equipment to help others.  I remotely designed the solar for Susan, that I installed on her new RAV4.

- My blog is another outlet too.  Not as much at home but on the road it gives me focus while traveling.  Roxy ( is a friend who publishes more nice places to go than I have time to visit, or weather doesn’t allow.  She has her blog above, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and she has a lot to offer.  The blog allows me to share, but there were more followers writing about Prius life.  Thanks to all that followed my travels this year.

- The highlights of my 2018 Travels include visiting Rainbow Bridge NM, traveling the many deserted miles of the Notem-Bullfrog Road, 4x4’ing Butler Wash/Bears Ears, visiting the many cliff dwellings/Petroglyphs, and the many hikes.

Thanks for the insight! 

A: Your welcome

- Brent

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gas Milage Comparison - 3 Vehicle Comparison

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I will look at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.

If you have questions you would like answered please let me know.

Gas Milage, Comparison:

My first year with the above Class B camper was a get out the door and go see the country trip.  I knew the Chevy G30 (one ton chassis) history and had a full evaluation of the vehicle by a mechanic before I left having things fixed and preventive things adddressed too.

All this work including a full tuneup can’t fix the vehicle weight, the V-8 350 engine, and non-aerodynamic design.   Although getting an average mpg of 10, it was the wind and climbing hills that sucked the gas.

The Prius my first year I didn’t use the engine for heating or electricity (hybrid battery) for cooling, so I got over 50 mpg.  At the request of some of the blog viewer feedback to test using the Prius for heating and cooling, I did go down to 46 mpg.  I have to say that warming the car before bed and before you get up was a nice feature, but A/C usage was limited because of not having too many hot days in the spring.

Now for the tale of two Tacoma’s.  Above is my Tacoma with my FWC Fleet camper and with what is carried in the cab I was carrying about 1,000 lbs (1/2 ton)

My average mpg was 16.  

My detail 2018 stats are as follows;
- drove 16,210 miles
- spent 2,637.52 in gas 
- used 1013.0 gallons of gas
- I filled up 115 times (in UT I filled up every time I was in town to ensure I was prepared)

So that gave me 16 mpg that I averaged $2.60/ gallon, and cost me $0.1627 for fuel each mile I drove.

Note: the highest I got on a fill up was about 18 mpg.

Now for the other take of  my Tacoma.  Without my FWC on my truck I get around 20 mpg on highway driving and 18 mpg around town.

I plan to go to Maine for an event in June and with all that I don’t need to carry for this trip, I’m hoping for higher mpg.

Gas Milage, In Summary:

Class B - 3
Prius - 10
Tacoma - 6

In retrospect, I had guessed I would get around 17 mpg.  17 sounds so much better than 16🤔, although it’s not.

I can say that I’m not unhappy with the Tacoma mpg as it brought me places the Class B and Prius could not go.

On the FWC owners FB page I even felt better about my 16 mpg after seeing this post below where this owner has a Tundra (larger Toyota truck than mine) and FWC Hawk model (heavier model than my Fleet), only got 11.4 mpg.

I sure wish, along with other high clearance vehicles, to be in the 25 mpg range, but IRS an elusive dream.

As I said in the past, if I didn’t have to drive across the country to get to the southwest, the fuel costs would not be as big an issue.