The day before we were due to sell Dimes to its new owner, our oldest daughter cried. We all really loved Dimes, and while we were excited to get our new van, it was hard to let go of the van that had been a major part of our home for the last half of a year and served as our home base on countless other adventures.
Getting Dimes ready to sell
Before the sale of Dimes, I brought it to have the front brake rotors and pads replaced. Dimes did a pretty good job towing our Airstream, Wobbles, but it was certainly hard on the brakes (as we were at the maximum GCWR (gross combined weight rating— the weight of the trailer and van combined).
Near the end of our trip, there was a section of highway just north of San Francisco where I used the van’s brakes a bit too much while going down a hill (rather than down-shifting and manually applying trailer brakes, like I usually did). The brakes started vibrating violently, and we had to pull over. Honestly, I thought the front wheels were about the fall off. However, soon after our tire pressure / temperature monitor was reporting high temperature on the front wheels, and I realized that I had overheated the brakes and warped the rotors. Once the brakes cooled down everything was mostly fine again, but there was a little vibration during high speed braking after that. Because of this, I wanted to replace the front brakes to make sure they were safe for the next owner.
I also brought Dimes to a mechanic so that the new potential owner, Jason, could get it inspected. They found a few things that I hadn’t known about (worn tie rods and ball joints) but nothing that was in imminent need of repair. Overall, Dimes is in great condition for a van that is almost 20 years old.
We planned to take delivery of our new van and sell Dimes both on the same day. Although we had listed Dimes for sale a few weeks back, I told potential buyers that I wouldn’t actually sell Dimes until April 2nd, the day we were due to get our new van. This was because we didn’t want to be without a vehicle capable of moving Wobbles, as we were scheduled to bring Wobbles in to the Airstream dealer, a few days before April 2nd, to get a floor creak taken care of. The plan was we would drop off Wobbles using Dimes, and pick her up with our new van.
The person that we were buying the Sprinter from lives in Hawaii, so we had to coordinate the whole transaction remotely. The van was in storage in Washington, so we were able to drive up and meet the father of the owner to see the van before we bought it. The van was financed by the seller, so there was added complications involving paying off the remaining balance of the loan in order to acquire the title. Fortunately, the seller was awesome to work with and I immediately felt like he was someone I could trust. That was important, as I was blindly wiring money into his bank account with nothing more than a bill of sale as assurance that we would eventually acquire a van in exchange for the funds.
We transferred the funds in 2 stages— about half of the sales price up front in-order to pay off the loan, and the rest once it was confirmed that the loan was payed off and the title had been mailed.
The seller’s dad was kind enough to volunteer to drive the van down from Washington, a 3 1/2 hour drive one way that wouldn’t have been fun to the bring the kids along on.
And so, on April 2nd at around 1pm, our new van pulled onto our street in front of our house! And at 6pm Jason arrived to buy Dimes. In between those two times, we quickly transferred the decals from Dimes to the new van. Although we’ll likely re-make the decals with colors that work better on the dark-blue paint, we wanted to at-least see how they looked on the new van.
Selling Dimes was a much simpler transaction— a cashiers check, a bill of sale, and a signature on the title– it was all done with in 30 minutes. Jason plans to take a 6-month road trip in the van and we’re super excited for him— he’s going to love Dimes.
The new van
Immediately after our new van arrived Sarah started moving all our things from Dimes into the cabinets of the new van (we love organizing and were eager to find out how well our stuff fit in the cabinets). That night after the girls went to sleep, I did an IKEA and Target run and bought just about every possible size of small plastic containers that would fit in the cabinets so that we could try them all and figure out what fit best (and return the rest).
Once we had everything that was previously in Dimes into the new van, we still had at-least half of the storage space available! That was great news, as the primary reason we were upgrading the van was to get more storage space.
The girls were particular sad that the new van doesn’t have a top-bunk like Dimes did, which served as a fun play around. Fortunately, they were quick to discover hiding places in the new van.
Naming the van
We were holding off naming the new van until we had it in our possession, hoping that something would inspire us once we were in it. As it turned out, the inspiration came from our homeschooling instead. Sarah had been teaching Spanish to our girls, and they had just done colors.
“Azul!” our oldest said.
“Como se dice ‘big’ en Español?”.
And so, “Azul Grande” became the new name. Appropriately enough, the previous owner had called the van “Big Blue.”
The saga of picking up Wobbles
I had thought that the Airstream dealership would take the better part of a week to fix the floor squeak, but as it turned out they called the next day and said it was ready to pick up. This was a bit of a problem, as I hadn’t gotten the towing brake controller installed in the Sprinter yet (in-fact, the adapter cable hadn’t even arrived from Amazon yet). And so the next day when the adapter cable arrived I went out to the van and got to work.
The Sprinter had come from the factory with the towing package, so I thought it was going to be a quick job to install the brake controller. All I had to do was take the driver’s seat off, locate a green plug under the seat, and then plug the adapter cable in and run it under the floor mat to the dashboard. Easy peasy!
However, I spent several hours under the seat looking for that little green plug and came up empty handed! I was deflated, and decided to just pay the Airstream dealer to install the controller— after all, there must be something they know that I don’t.
The next day I drove to the Airstream dealer with the Sprinter and their technicians got to work on the install. However, they too spent about 2 hours under the seat and dashboard and also couldn’t find the little green plug. Unable to legally let me take the trailer home with a van that didn’t have a brake controller installed, they were nice enough to let me borrow one of their F150 pickups to bring Wobbles home.
I almost wish they hadn’t— towing with that truck spoiled me! It towed so effortlessly, had a backup camera that was designed for hitching up, a built-in tow controller, and it automatically downshifted when I braked to use engine braking. The Sprinter feels fancy compared to Dimes, but it does not have any of those towing features.
I dropped Wobbles off at home, scarfed a quick late lunch, and then drove the pickup back to the dealer to pick up the Sprinter. Even more discouraged, I made an appointment for the following Monday at a Sprinter specialist mechanic to have them install the brake controller, giving myself the weekend to make one more attempt to do it myself before paying $200+ for the pros to do it.
On Sunday, I took the driver’s seat off for a second time and hunted around the little green plug once more, but once again could not find it. I decided I would try to manually wire the brake controller (hooking in to the brake lights and running a wire underneath the van all the way back to the 7-way trailer plug in the rear). This was a last resort, but I didn’t know what else to do at that point. I started by grabbing 12V power and ground from under the driver’s seat and running those wires up to the dashboard where the brake controller would be located. Then I put the seat back on. I also cut the plug off the end of my adapter cable, convinced that it wouldn’t be needed anymore, to allow me to splice the wires directly in.
While I was pondering how I was going to tie into the brake signal, I had one more idea of a place to look for the green plug. There was a wire channel that the wires under the driver’s seat went into that went toward the center of the vehicle and then forward toward the console. Opening this wire channel involved pulling up a fair amount more of the floor coverings, but still I found no green plug.
Then something caught my eye. The wires under the driver’s seat were exiting in two directions (although both in the same spot). Some wires went sideways out from under the seat into that wire channel, and others went straight down (likely coming out somewhere under / inside of the frame). In the hole that went straight down, I could see some white plastic … I had originally thought that these were receptacles that the wires were plugged into, but that didn’t really make sense, in retrospect, to have receptacles in such a tight spot. I pulled on the wires that were attached to the white plug and the plug came right up! And then, stuffed down in the hole underneath where that white plug had previously been shoved, I found the green plug!
I was excited to find the plug, but it was also kind of hilarious that it took me taking the driver’s seat off 3 times to find it, and that I had already butchered the adapter cable that would have made the installation plug-and-play. Instead, I now had to cut the green plug off of the wires in the Sprinter so that I could splice directly into the van’s wires. Ugh! Not as pretty as what I had hoped to do. But in the end, it worked!
A first tow
I needed to dump the black tank of Wobbles, as we hadn’t yet emptied it from when we had used it the prior week to stay in a friend’s driveway. We don’t have a way to dump at home, so I needed to tow Wobbles to an RV park. This gave me a good chance to test out the towing capability of the Sprinter van.
It did great, at-least on that short trip across town. I didn’t even use the load distributing bars, as the Sprinter has a 1-ton rear axle, so it had no problem handling the tongue weight. On the trip to the dump station and back, which was mostly stop-and-go on city roads, the on-board computer reported that I averaged 19mpg. That’s incredible, as we were getting only 10mpg towing with Dimes!
As you can see in the above photo, Azul is actually taller than Wobbles, which makes Wobbles look pretty tiny.
I am eager to see how it does towing on the highway, and in particular towing up mountain passes on the highway. We don’t have any plans yet to travel to the mountains with Azul and Wobbles this summer, so it may be a while yet before we find out.