HDTV CONVERSION

The purpose of this page is to detail several alternatives to converting your old analog TV to a new flat panel digital HDTV. Although these conversions are done in later model coaches, the ideas are pertinent to all years. Not only will you be enjoying a better picture on your new HDRV, but you will also save a LOT of weight and you may gain some valuable storage space also!

TV SELECTION

The first consideration is "plasma" or "LCD". This is really a no-brainer. Although plasma offers several advantages - such as much better contrast ratio and viewing angle - plasma borders on unsuitable for motorhome use for the following reasons:

  1. Plasma is somewhat fragile to road vibration.

  2. Plasma is also somewhat sensitive to high altitudes
  3. Generally speaking, plasma requires more power which may be a big consideration if you boondock a lot.
  4. LCD is better in a bright room, such as a motorhome.
Now that you have probably decided to buy and LCD TV, let's move on to other selection criteria.

SIZE

Bigger is better, but this article assumes you will be installing your new HDTV in an existing cabinet, so you will be limited by the cabinet size. Generally, for most later model D's. this will limit you to a 32" TV in front and a 26" TV in the rear. However, TV's come in varying widths for the same screen size, so measure your opening carefully. When shopping for a new HDTV, be sure to take your tape measure with you since the store measurements are sometimes wrong. Also, be aware of where the button controls are located on the TV. Many buttons are along the side which means that you will need slightly more clearance so that these buttons are not inadvertently activated by the cabinet.

VIEWING ANGLE

Some LCD TV's picture looks bad if you are viewing from the side or slightly below the TV. This can be critical in a motorhome since you will not be sitting directly in front of and in line with the TV. Generally, look for one with a wide bviewing angle of at least 176 degrees. However, note that there is no good universal reference for this specification, so observe the picture from different horizontal and vertical viewing angles at the store.

CONTRAST RATIO

Again, there is no universal standard for measuring contrast ratio, but the larger the better. Just don't get dynamic contrast ratio confused with the more common static contrast ratio (usually just called contrast ratio). If you can, watch a dark scene on two TV's that you are considering side by side and make your decision.

RESOLUTION

You will notice that HDTV's advertise a resolution that will support 720p (and 1080i), usually expressed as a pixel ratio such as 1388 x 768 or something similar. Other HDTV's will be advertised as "Full HD" which supports 1080p. However, broadcast TV is NOT 1080p, and neither is your cable or satellite. Unless you plan on using a Blu-Ray HD player with your new HDTV, you can save some $$ by skipping the "Full HD" feature.

However, the BIG thing you should be concerned with is how the TV picture will look when connected to your DirecTV or DISH satellite system. All of the KVH satellite system used through the 2009 model year are NOT capable of receiving HD from DISH or DirecTV. (Some KVH models can be modified to receive DISH. However, DirecTV is migrating all their HD channels to a different frequency band that KVH does not support. The best bet is to replace the KVH with a new satellite that fully supports your vendor's HD signals if you are serious about your HD satellite programming). So, most of your satellite viewing may be done the worst possible way - via RF channel 3 or 4. This is basically an old analog standard definition (SD) source. Some HDTV's display much better pictures from an SD source than others. If you can, connect your satellite receiver to your new HDTV via HDMI (or DVI and audio cables) or at least component cables if possible.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

You will want to make sure that the TV has the proper audio and video connections AND the proper quantity for your use (HDMI, component, S-Video, etc).

Warranty is an important issue. Looks for at least one year parts and labor. Energy star compliance is important to boondockers. If you plan on ever using your new TV at home, you may also want to consider the availability of a cable card slot and also a QAM tuner which will let you receive unscrambled cable channels without a converter box. You may also want to consult Consumers Reports for repair frequency and reliability. If you want the utmost in reliability for a TV, there are models that are made for marine / rough terrain use.

MAKING THE INSTALLATION

WARNING - the wood trim panel on the front TV on some models is attached with screws and four brackets mounted on the insdie of the TV cabinet. You MUST mark these brackets as they are not interchangeable. It appears that FW installed the mounting brackets, held up the trim panel, and then drilled the holes for the screws holding the wood trim panel. Get these mixed up and your trim panel will not screw back on!

There are numerous ways to mount your new HDTV. Shown below are different methods used by DOAI members. (The really easy way is to just buy a new D!)

FRONT TV

Bob and Nina Soltwedel

Not only did we want a flat screen HDTV in the front of our 2005 39L, but we wanted the cabinet to be more shallow -- we had hit our heads several times too many on the protruding cabinet.

After a lot of searching, Bob settled on a 32" Samsung HDTV model LN-S3296D. That specific model was chosen because the speakers are on the bottom, thus allowing us to get a wider screen than the models with side speakers.

After removing the original TV, Bob unstapled the covering and padding and folded them aside. He measured how deep the cabinet needed to be, and then carefully cut away the excess wood ... approximately three inches. After a light sanding of the edges, he folded the padding and covering back and restapled.

The next problem was deciding how to mount the TV within the cabinet. Bob decided to use two 2x4 metal joist hangers inside the cabinet in a suitable location. This allowed him to place a wall mount adapter on the back of the TV and then he bolted a 2x3 piece of wood to that mount. With this set up he was able to place the TV on the joist hangers by simply lifting it over and dropping it down in. For further stabilization he placed a support lock on the back inside of each corner of the TV. He then fabricated a new front flat front bezel with openings to correspond with the new TV. He had to create a recess along the lower right side for access to the buttons on the TV, and a notch in the left side to allow the bezel to fit back all the way on the edge of the cabinet. The bezel was made out of alder and matches the color of the Windsor birch woodwork within our coach.

He put felt pads on the corner supports to eliminate squeaking of the wood against plastic. He also wrapped the 2x3 with felt and stapled it on to prevent the wood from squeaking on the hanger joist.

The TV is easy to remove if necessary. Remove the screws on the bottom edge of the bezel and the two screws inside top through the air vent.

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The following conversion was done by Donna Huffer and Bob Parker in a 2006 35H. As you can see from their blog article below, Bob has done an outstanding job!

The completed project showing the storage. Two shelves were added as the floor of the cabinet was slanted. He added a strip of wood on the floor and small manuals can be stored there without sliding out. So there are really 3 shelfs.


Bob mounted the bottom of the TV on "L" brackets. It is just setting on them as he wasn't too sure about screwing thru the TV itself.

A piano hinge is used on one side to access the storage area that is created. He used web strapping to hold the TV to the surface of the frame work.

Here you can see the 2 "L" brackets, the hinge and the strapping. Since our frame was on a slant he also added an "L" bracket to the right side so the TV wouldn't shift when the door was opened.

To keep the door frame shut he used a window latch on the left side.

Here is the left side of the TV cabinet.

BACK TV INSTALLATION


The bedroom TV was also on a factory installed hinge for watching TV from the bed. It had a shelf attached to the frame which was removed that the TV sat on. Bob removed the frame to add the TV to it and then reattached the frame to the compartment.

It was mounted on "L" brackets but he was able to screw them into the TV (be sure you won't hit internal wiring in the TV.)

This TV sits flat and not tilted. He used a sliding bolt (bottom left) to lock the frame in place when on the road. Drilled a hole into the paneling of the wall.

He added a shelf for our internet components to sit on and the printer and paper are on the bottom shelf.

Chris Coats Front TV Install

The install was amazingly easy, to be honest. The Vizio had the perfect dimensions to fit my cabinet. Below are the steps I took:
  1. I removed the front panel off the cabinet as well as the two blocks of wood at the bottom and the piece of wood across the top. I set these aside for future use.
  2. I worked the Vizio into the cabinet, which takes a little effort because of the clips on the side for the wood front. I slide the left side toward the back, got the right side past the clips and slide into place. It fits very nicely.
  3. I took a measurement at the bottom to see how deep to reinstall the two pieces of wood behind the new tv to keep it in place.
  4. I removed the tv from the cabinet, ran all my cables, installed the two pieced of wood, installed pieces of foam on the side of the metal clips to cushion them against the new tv and, this is VERY IMPORTANT, I put two thick pieces of foam on the right side above and below the control buttons to make sure the tv did not slide and press any of the buttons.
  5. I reinstalled the new tv, taking my time to lift it above the wood blocks on the left side and get it positioned properly.
  6. At this point, having the bottom locked in place by the blocks behind it, I needed to lock in the top. I took the piece of wood from the top, installed pieces of Velcro in three different places and slide it down snug on top and attached it to the two sides of the cabinet. At this point, the tv was secured and not going anywhere.
  7. To give me an increased level of comfort that the tv would NOT move, I installed pieces of Velcro on both sides of the wooden front frame, and a couple of pieces at the top that would stick to the tv frame when installed. The two bottom screws installed just like they were removed because the way the tv frame works. For the top two screws, I had to cut them off so they would barely catch the metal clip and would NOT go past the foam installed. I inserted the two bottom screws to make the frame was aligned properly, removed the back of the Velcro strips and completed the install.

Total time from start to finish was less than an hour, and that was because I spent a few minutes rewiring some of the electronics. This TV has two component and only one composite input. I am running my dvd/vcr directly to component input 1 and I am running a switch box that has my satellite receiver, Wii game and openings for two other composite devices. Tv works great and will allow me to upgrade to HD at some point in time

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Bob and Mary Cook front and rear TV conversion

First, I would like to thank everyone above for sharing their information and answering my questions. This was very helpful and made my installation much easier.

FRONT TV

The front TV cabinet on our 2005 39S measured 31.5". When I went shopping for a new HDTV, I was really impressed with the Samsung 32" TV's. One of their models was just slightly less than 31.5" wide, but we were still concerned that the buttons on the side would contact the side of the cabinet and cause problems. Fortunately, this was not the case. It is a tight fit, but no problem.

The first thing to be aware of is that the four L brackets that support the front wood trim panel CANNOT be interchanged. Be sure to mark them so that you reinstall in the same location.

Removing the existing heavy analog TV is definitely a two person job. However, it was easily removed once the aforementioned L brackets and two mounting bolts that held down the front were removed.

Since this would be a tight fit for the width, I elected to "permanently" mount the new Sammy to the inside of the cabinet. The TV is braced from the rear by a piece of wood running horizontal and attached to the cabinet. The wood is sized and placed so as not to interfere with cooling vents or TV connections. The horizontal surface of the wood is angled at the same 17 degree angle as the front of the cabinet. The wood was wrapped in a soft fabric to prevent squeaks. The TV is now stabilized in the rear. The front of the TV is held in place by small wood blocks (and also the wood trim panel). This TV is not made to stand by itself with the stand detached - the front trim bezel is convex and extends below the bottom of the TV. To compensate, small wood blocks were placed under the TV so that the TV is not resting on the trim bezel.
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The rear TV is a somewhat novel installation that borrows its concept from Bob Parker. However, I was able to find a Sanyo TV that had a cabinet shape that allowed the front panel to sit on the frame and the rear "guts" of the TV was narrow enough to bit through the frame. The TV was then secured to the frame with wood brackets that I cobbled together (I have zero carpentry skills!). The wood brackets attach to the rear of the TV using the VESA mounting holes. As in Bob Parker's installation, removal of the analog TV creates a nice big storage space - big enough for a multi-function printer, satellite positioner, satellite modem, router and other components hidden behind the printer.
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Dan Stoppenback Front LCD TV Install

Being new to the RV game, and not having anybody close to us to glean info from, plus the fact that I am bored (unemployed for over two years) (by choice), I just used the D as a tinker toy until we left Florida in May. I have read where folk have put new and/or larger TVs in the box above the dash. This seemed to be a suitable challenge. Being bored gave me the incentive to do some strange stuff.

The opening was fine for the factory 20". That sucked for me. I looked at the LCDs in all the stores, measured everything, yada, yada. The two doors beside the TV had X number of inches between them to use if I chose to flush mount the TV and still open the doors. Too small for my idea of a 1080 HDTV. I looked into building a wall mount TV bracket for a flat screen. I looked into sliding the wall mount screen from side to side to enable opening the storage doors when desired. I kept kicking around ideas until about a month before it was time to go. It was time to get off the pot, so to speak.

I then ordered a 37" Sharp 1080p LCD HDTV. Sharp had the smallest 1080p available in a 32" model. The 37 was not much larger so..... bigger really is better sometimes.

I installed a couple of drawer slides inside the TV box, spacing them inward towards the center of the D until the slides cleared the wood trim around the box. I made a plywood panel with cutouts and holes to match the rear mounting positions on the TV. I placed the plywood TV mount on a bar mounted between the slides and then attached it with a couple of door hinges. That is a very crude and quick explanation.

In use, moving down the road, the TV is face up to the ceiling. It is held there by a snap and eyebolt installed in the AC duct. A manual lift and attach / detach system. At the campground, the TV is unhooked and swings down. It now is about 4 inches below the ceiling of the MH. To gain access to the overhead cabinets, I slide the TV out from the wall. The slides permit about 7 inches of clearance between the back of the TV and the wood frame on the cabinet. That is enough space to allow the storage doors to flip open (upward).

I used the space inside the box as a place to put a HP all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine and to store a ream of paper plus other junk. It is a wireless unit so all I needed was AC from the VCR bay. The small opening above the original wood frame was perfect for a low profile DVD from Wal-mart.

The setup has worked great for about 4000 miles this summer. Any early fears are long forgotten now.

This photo shows the TV in the operating position. The display is what I receive from the original 1997 batwing antenna while the D is parked at our home.

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This photo shows how a low profile DVD fits through the factory vent on the original wood frame. A small plywood shelf supports the DVD.

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This image is another view that shows the overhead storage doors open behind the TV as the slides are extended.

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This photo shows the TV in the stowed position. I swing the bottom upwards until I can snap the hook onto the eyebolt attached to the ceiling. Note that the overhead light had to be shifted to the side to clear the TV. The box now stores a HP all-in-one printer with a wireless link. I usually have a piece of card stock covering the mess behind the printer and a ream of paper rests on the drivers side of the printer.

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This photo is a close up of my attachment. The swivel eyebolt is attached to the ceiling through a double thickness of 3/4" plywood glued in the end of the AC duct. The plywood scraps are 2.5 inches wide and run the width of the duct. The eyebolt has a couple of washers and a locking nut inside the duct. The metal bracket on the TV is the original Sharp stand minus the base plate. The tape in this photo, and others, was to hold the wires to the Wii sensor tight to the TV and away from the grand kids.

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This photo is looking up towards the stowed TV and mount. The mount starts with a couple of drawer slides attached to the inside of the origional TV enclosure. The slides each have a length of aluminum angle attached. The aluminum angle has a cross piece of 1 x 3 aluminum square tube that holds two hinges. The hinges allow the TV to be tipped up towards the ceiling and carry the weight of the TV. The plywood has the TV ventalation slots duplicated on it. The fasteners are located at the TV mounting bosses and the 4 fasteners that held the Sharp factory mount to the TV.

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This is more of the same. It shows the door hinges a bit better. The plywood across the aluminum angle on the rear of the slide is just to hold the slides square.

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This next photo is moving in a bit closer. The ball mounts were for a couple of nitrogen springs to act as a lift assist. It did not work as expected. The geometry is wrong but I wanted to keep the springs out of the way.

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This photo is just a view from the shotgun seat. It does show how far readward the TV is when traveling.

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This photo shows the far side overhead storage door open with the TV down. It really does work.

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If there is anything missing, or unexplained, let me know and I shall try to fill the gaps. I really did plan to paint the whole deal to match the TV. I still might someday. I just ran out of time as I had to install an electric brake control, install brakes on the tow dolly, get the generator together, etc. The nice thing is, I don't really have to paint it because when the TV is down, the sins are hidden. When the TV is up, my wife is the only person who sees that it is uncompleted as we travel.

Dale O'Daniel Front and Rear TV Conversions

In the front, after removing the original tv, I build a frame for a wall mount to hold the 32" Visio. When the wall mount is retracted the tv rests against the original wooden frame around the opening. When viewing the tv you can extend it and angle it any way you wish for viewing. When on the road, I use a bungee wrapped around the frame and wall mount to keep the tv snug against the frame.

In the bedroom, I removed the old tv and placed the 22" Visio against the frame on the inside. I moved the original wooden block up to hold the bottom of the tv and used an adjustable strap to hold the top. The installation went smoothly and the hardest part was probably removing the original tv because it is heavy. If anyone has questions, I would be happy to respond by email.

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