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Traded One Transit Connect For Another


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We first heard about the Transit Connect during the SEMA show in CA back in 2014. While there we visited with several of those who summited their version of the Transit Connect concepts.  Speaking with Aaron Vaccar, eJudge, Mobsteel and Ford Performance about their vans, I was impressed with how they did these conversions and designs. I wasn't hooked until we actually took a 2015 Ford Transit Connect SWB XL for a test drive. The main issue is I being 6'3'' with long legs could not fit into smaller sports cars and even though the van is listed as a cargo hauler, it has the heart of a sports car. 

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I was very impressed with the nimble handling and quick acceleration. So we set out to change or upgrade the wheels. I've always wanted a set of the Sparco wheels, so we contacted Tirerack North America and found a set of the silver/gray 16'' x 6.5'' terra wheels. We mounted a set of the Maxxis 215/55/16 sport tires to complete the package and posted the van's picture on Tirerack's site listed under the Sparco wheel option.

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We drove the van for many years, but there was one thing I hated about the van. The instrument cluster. Seems Ford mounted some plastic hoods over the instrument cluster and it was very hard to view all the gauges. 2020 rolls around and we decided it was time to let the ole 2015 TC go and get a new 2020 TC. This time around and instead of the van being the dull white, we purchased a dark blue van. The blue van had many of the same characteristics of the 2015 van, but Ford finally changed how the instrument cluster looked, No more hoods obstructing ones view from the gauges.

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We went from a 2015 Ford Transit Connect 2.5l SWB XL (Windowed Rear Lift Gate) to a 2020 Ford Transit Connect 2.0L SWB XL (Closed No Windows Barn Door) setup.

Although we never did anything to the 2015 van, we are making plans to do a bit more to the 2020 van this time around. First on the list, those 17'' wheels I wanted on the 2015, never happened. This time, we're going to make it happen.

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Again turning to Tirerack for the sparco wheels, I wanted to see if we could get the 17'' wheels this time. But due to trade restrictions and shipping times, the wheel would have taken longer than expected to arrive. Plus Tirerack did not sell Nitto tires which is the brand we prefer to us on our next set of wheels. We took a chance and ordered a wheel/tire package from CariD. This way I can set up what wheels & tires and everything is mounted balanced and shipped direct to our home. But we've not been getting deliveries from UPS, FEDex and even the postal service.  I had to use my nephews address down in North Carolina.

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We've selected the Voxx capo 17'' x 7'' ET: 38mm wheels with the Nitto 215/50/ZR 17 tires. These would arrive at my nephews home mounted, balanced new valve stims, plastic wheel rings and tuner lugs. Not sure I like the tuner lugs, but we can change these later. The wheels arrived 3 weeks ago all wrapped up in two pair. While the nephew inspected the wheels and sent images of the process, he learn that the wheels did not include the plastic wheel rings and we're to arrive at his house in a few days. I franticly searched online for metal wheel rings as we didn't want the plastic versions. 

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Locating wheel rings from three differant manufactures, We ordered 3 sets of the 73.1mm - 63.4mm wheel rings totaling $100.00. But even with paying for 2 day shipping, the rings took forever to arrive. Oddly at that same time I spoke with my Uncle Eddie to ask if he still has that old belt driven lathe in his basement.  He surprised me just 3 days before we were to leave to North Carolina with a custom set of milled wheel rings. The winner and fastest we could have gotten a set of wheel rings, was from my Uncle Eddie and you should see how he does this. He has this old belt drive lathe in his basement and uses his truck pulled up beside a basement window, connects some sort of gear rod system that powers the lathe.

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Then we get a call from my nephew saying several family members came in contact with others at their work who test positive for the virus.. So it's not safe for us to travel down to his house till after 15 more days have passed and my wheels are still sitting in his garage. We've bene waiting 3 weeks. Then I go and step off a curb 2 weeks ago and injury my left knee.. X-rays & MRI shows some damage and swelling. This could mean I'll never be able to drive the van again because if I have surgery, I'll never be able to bend my knee.

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With the eventuality of going into surgery and I may not be able to bend my left knee, this presents an issue with trying to drive the van. One thing we're working on either adding new Recaro seats, which has become difficult as most shops we've contacted will not installed seats in our van due to liability issues. The only other options is to first cut out the dead peddle or foot rest. The TC's foot rest is in a bad spot which forces my left leg up and into a bad bend. I've been informed my my nephews youngest son that he wanted to remove the dead peddle for us.

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While he's doing that the nephew and I are working on mounting a set of spacers under the current seat configuration to see if we can change the angle of the seats, as the current factory seats give "bucket seats" a new meaning. We've never had this problem on the 2015 TC and recently learn that as of 2018 or so, the seats have bene redesigned to surround you as a means of protection. Not only this, but the head rest has changed which forces our heads forward. All these changes make it very difficult to sit comfortably in the van.

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We're going to be using or testing several size spacers or rubber bushings on the seats. The attached image happens to be a plastic skate board wheel acquired from a broken skateboard left in our alley. Once we get into this, I'll go into more detail about the process.

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We're still waiting on being allowed to travel to western North Carolina to test fit the new Voxx wheels. But not only are we having the nephew mount the wheels, work on the removing the dead peddle and adjusting the seats. I've notice the current factory wheels are showing signs of heavy brake dust. Ford seems to installed cheap brake pads, so we're going to upgrade the system.

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We're opting for the Powerstop carbon fiber/ceramic brake pads and the only reason we didn't upgrade the ford calipers, is because we heard through the grapevine that Powerstop is going to start offering custom caliper colors. But after contacting them, They haven't started offering this service yet. other wise we would have upgraded the calipers to the Ford Blue.

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Something else we've been considering. I've contacted several local and not so locate body repair/paint shops in an effort to locate someone willing to repaint the van. Because the van is a dark blue, we're not going to completely flip the van color. Instead we're going with a dark candy blue. Several shops have said we need to deconstruct the van completely, removing the doors and trim, then charge us nearly $10,000. This is outrageous and way over our budget. Fortunately, I recalled a friend who has a paint shop in of course North Carolina.. Gave him a call and he's up for the challenge and even admitted the van (being dark blue) doesn't need to go into that must deconstruction to have the van repainted. I've informed the shop, that all we wanted repainted is the sides, hood and double barn doors and the roof, I'm going to paint with a heat reducing coating and color. So We'll be doing a write up on the prep needed to have the van repainted and we get to help with the process.

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One of the easiest improvements we did to the van was by adding the K&N air filter. So just to confirm that the K&N air filter #33-3138 does fit the Ford Transit Connect air box even though the K&N site doesn't list this product for the Transit Connect.

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One thing we've had to deal with over the life of the 2015 TC, is that we hated how the spare tire was placed under the rear of the van. We're getting older and we need a better option for a spare tire. It is very difficult for one to lower the spare, then pull is from the ground, remove the cable system and mount the spare on the vehicle. So we're going to do something differant. 

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Using sites like RoadKill Customs (no relation to the roadkill show) we located a bolt pattern list which has several wheels with the same bolt patter as the Transit Connect. At one point we even thought about using wheels from either Volvo or even Jaguar on the van as the bolt patterns are the same. But we're searching for a lug pattern and center bore that nearly identical to the TC's. This lead us to the 2005 Ford Thunderbird and the bolts pattern, center bore and even lug size are the same. But we're not interested in a set of wheels, we're interested in acquiring a 17'' spare balloon tire. Doing this will reduce the weigh of the tire, change the mounting location and not have the van sitting crooked if the spare is needed.

 

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There's one issue with the Thunderbirds spare, seems a few thunderbird forums and sites are saying that the Maxxis tire on these spares tend to explode while in the rear of the car or even while mounted on the car. The attached image shows a Thunderbird spare exploding without any noticeable tread wear. We've located a junk yard.. Yep in North Carolina that happens to have this spare in stock. Once we acquire the spare we'll have them or someone else remove the bad tire, then we'll send the wheel to our powder coaters. The have a new/differant spare tire mounted on the wheel.

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As for where this new spare is to be mounted. We're having a handicapped installer who modifies vans with ramps. In order to have this done, remove the spare and actually mount it inside the an. We'll have them mount the spare tire carrier inside the van also.

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Again this is very unorthodox to say the least, but it will save weight, allow us the freedom to still have a spare in/on the van.

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Along the way, we're going to be adding new materials to this build. We're not going to touch the engine nor other areas of the van other than repainting etc. Whats going to be the big draw, is what's going to happen inside the van. First we're going to remove the wooden blank panels from all of the cargo doors while I order some diamond tucked faux carbon fiber material. I'm going to attach the material to these panels and remount them in their previous spots. We're doing this instead of just covering or painting these wooden panels. Although I have some seamstress abilities, my arthritic hands are just not willing to do this type of detail sewing anymore. So we've located a supplier who already has the material cross stitched for us.

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With the wheel/tires down at my Nephews home in Western North Carolina, I've been researching if these wheels are actually going to fit. Although CariD claims that will fit, they and many other sites use the same system to test fit wheels without actually test fitting them. Sure looks good on paper. but one doesn't know until they actually mount them up. Using sites like TacomaWorld wheel/tire calculator & wheel-size.com here's some specs I was able to work up as compared to the factory 16''x6.5 wheels w/ 215/55/16 tires.

 

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couple of things I've noticed while doing this,. First the 17'' Voxx wheel actually measures 18'' rim edge to rim edge, then add in the low profile 215/5017 tires the rim will make the wheel look larger on the low profile tires. Next, the tire rotation chart. Say while we've decreased the tire size, the tire will rotate less than the factory 16''s which means better fuel economy.

Note: There's a typo above and I'm not able to change it. But the Voxx wheels are: 17'' x 7.5'' with Nitto 215/50/ZR17 tires.

Now at some point we could have went to 18'' or even 19'' wheels, and we had several retailers contacting us trying to push their wheel packages. The issue here, is that I wanted to keep or retain the load index of the tires based on the van side door sticker. I'm looking to stay within load index range of 95-98 While the 18's & 19's wheel would require tires in the load index range of 91-94. Which is not enough for our build. So theoretically, yes you can mount 18''x 8'' or 19''x 8'' wheels on the van, but you'll suffer in the load index as well as the tire rotation.

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We just couldn't take it anymore. With tools in hand we went out the garage and carefully removed the floor covering in the van so we could find out what and how the dead peddle was attached.. and guess what we found..

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Here's the dreaded dead peddle aka foot rest nothing more than a molded foam panel placed under the floor covering. Once we removed the foam pad, using the numbers stamped on the foam panel, we searched online to see if we could find this part through any Ford parts retailers without any success. Now that the dead peddle has been removed and Even though my knee/leg is still in pain and can't be bent, I was able to enter and drive the van for the first time in 5 weeks since my injury.

So to anyone who also wants to remove the dead peddle, just removed the drivers side door molding, lift back the floor mats from the break and gas peddle, reach under the floor covering, break the two white plastic tabs holding the molded foam in place. Done & Done. The only issue left is that the floor covering has bene moldered around the dead peddle, so we had to cut parts of the molded area away from the floor board. Word of warning, there's a bundle of wires right behind and under the dead peddle so if you go to cutting the floor covering/pad, bet pushed the wire harness more towards the side door molding just to get it out of the way.

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With the dreaded dead peddle out of the way, we can now work on adjusting the angle of the seats. We're not able to locate an after market seat installer which is rather odd. So why bother offering aftermarket seats when you can't sit in them first or have the shop install them for you all because they aren't willing to do so all because of liability issues. My nephew sends me a photo of some bushings he has laying around in his shop. we'll continue to gather as many differant sizes and width of the these bushing all in an effort to adjust the seats angle. One area we're going to have to take care in adjusting is the side of the seat as the air bag (according to sources) says it's very touchy.

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These are some sort of body mount bushings he has around his shop. Though NAPA and ACE Hardware are down the street just in case we need something else. Even in the attached image showing a drawing of a driver in the van seems to indicate that several parts of the body are seeing signs of stress, around the knee and hip. Changing the angle of both seats should correct some of this bad angle as well as the main pinch points. Plus with the dead peddle gone, I can already feel a difference.

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All posted contact above nearly came to an end, as I was give better news about my knee/leg. At one point I felt I would not be able to move or bend my knee/leg again. But Drs have said that the swelling has gone done and I just need work on retune to my daily routines. So with the brighter news of me getting back in the van, we're off in 2 weeks to start checking off our travel stop list. Nephews house for the wheels, brake pads and seat adjustment, then off to a shop I've been secretly neglecting to mention, then off to the junk yard for that thunderbird spare. Last stop before we return home, the paint shop and line up a date to have the van repainted. There's gear piling up in the living room of what we need to take as this is also going to be a day by day camping trip. The first leg (sort to speak) is going be a 600 mile drive lasting more than 10 hours, though we are going to break the travel times up just to give my leg a rest. The main concern now that we have the dead peddle removed is a pinch point located at the waste/hip. Once we raise the seat up from the floors pads in the back this could change the angle of the seat reducing the hip/leg pinch point.

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This morning while driving the van to the store, I was paying close attention how my hip and legs are sitting i the transit connect seats, There a seats edge that rises up and the seats itself if rather flat. I've concluded that there seats edge needs to be shaved down or removed and the flat not forgiving main seats area are causing pressure on my left leg and left hip. But still if anything can help, it would be to raise the rear of the seats up as to change the angle of the seat with the shims or spacers. I Don't seem to have an issue with the back rest as these conform to my back with lumbar support. I've tried all types of foam pads, but all these do is raise up the center of the seated area and make me feel like teetertotter or unbalanced. One retailer even suggested installing a set of seats from another Ford vehicle like the F-150. Having this leg injury has made me more aware of what is wrong with the Transit Connect seats and we're going to have to work on getting this corrected if I'm to drive the van for more than 2 hours. Driving less than 30mins to the store, proved the nerve in my left knee started hurting again after 4 weeks. So there's clearly something screwy with these seats that's causing this.

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Just contacted a couple of handicapped and conversion van installers located here in Maryland & PA. We'll see what they have to say about correcting these seats.

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Using the above image, it shows how the dead peddle sticks out like a sore thumb and is very uncomfortable, even puts my leg in a bad angle and orientation. I zoomed in on this image, cropped just around the floor board. But again. If anyone needs to remove the dead peddle, you'll have to pull back the rubberized floor mat for above the gas & brake peddles, Reach behind the floor mat, cut the two white plastic tab/clips that retain the foam panel, then pull out the molded foam panel. Shown in the attached image.

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Just got three emails this morning from three different retailers seat conversion shops, all declining to help us with finding, upgrading and installing new seats for us. I'm like that the hell, you're a conversion shop and you don't convert seats or offer other alternatives? Clearly we're going to have to do this on our own.

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Also, been hitting the performance and Fab shops but again none of these are willing to help us with our project.

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Now I've got Ford Mobility service (North America) involved.  I've sent them an email and they said they are going to comb their list of mobility shops/installers who can help with this seating issue. But I told them I've already searched their list and most of these shops have decline to help us or are closed permanently. I also sent them this article about this Ford Focus seat:

https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/feu/en/news/2019/03/07/all-new-ford-focus-seats-praised-by-medical-experts-for-helping-.html

 

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Even with all the disappointing news that no one is willing to help us with the Transit Connect seat issues, I have talked with at least 2 companies willing to either offer suggestions or that make brackets for racing seats. Planted Technology USA has a list of vehicles wanted but did not have the Transit Connect listed. I sent them a contact last week and they said they would be willing to create a bracket mount for the transit Connect, but they would need a transit connect to be left in the shop while measurements are taken to create these seat bracket mounts. On any given day/week we would have jumped at the chance to travel to points unknown to have our van involved in some product testing. But since my leg/knee injury, we may not be able to travel to Washington State to have this done. So if any USA subscribers are reading this thread,

Please contact Jeff Reiss at Planted Technology

Email: sales@plantedtechnology.com

Phone: 425-747-9777

Tell Jeff "LostInTransit" sent you cause we need a bracket like this created for the Transit Connect that could allow us to use several types of seats include those from the Ford Mustang, or Ford Focus.

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I just had a talk with spokesperson for Vivid Racing in reference to the installation of the Recaro seats. According to Eric, he says they would gladly sell us a set of the Recaro seats for the van, But in my view, I've never sat in one, nor is there any guaranty that these seats will work in the van. We'll not be making a sight unseen purchase and we can't make that kind of costly mistake. I've noticed throughout our conversations with Eric he seems to be wary and growing more upset with my questions. Feeling negative vibes from Eric, Vivid Racing is out of the equation and off our list as possible parts suppliers.

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Deliberately posted the seat upside down.. we're back to working something out ourselves. Driving to the junk yard in two weeks could prove very fruitful for the spare tire as well as Ford Mustang seats, Ford Focus seats or even something totally off the wall...

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Well, we've decided that the tires will not fit our 2020 Ford Transit Connect and we've contacted CariD and informed them as such. However, according to their site, they do not take back or give refunds for wheel/tire packages. This presents an issue when these wheels/tires do not fit on the van. The 38mm offset is too great as the wheels are sticking too far out away from the fender and the turning radius is to tight. The wheels are touching the front struts and the rear tires are rubbing some pins sticking out from the body. These pins to metal tabs are used to retain the fabric/mesh located in the wheel wells. I'd have to cut/break these tabs/pins in order to have the tire fit correctly without rubbing.

So if CariD goes back on their word claiming these wheels/tires fit and if I have any issues with them I can return them, But clearly the site says I can't. If they do not take these wheels/tires back we're going to have to d something with them. I may end up keeping the wheels but the tires will have to go. One option I've submitted to my nephew is to have him, air down the tires, and take them to his local tire shop. Having them remove the valve stems and tires leaving just the wheels. I told him he can have the tires, valve stems and tuner lugs, we just want the wheels.

One can clearly see we never put these wheels/tires on the road leaving the tape and stickers on the threads. The nephew and I jacked up the van, then placed jack stands under the van so that it was suspended all around, installed the tires with the new custom wheel rings made by my Uncle and placed the van in gear, He checked the turning radius, tire rotation and areas for rubbing.. later we learn that when we lowered the van, the rear tires were touching some sort of metal pin sticking out of the van's body. So these tires wouldn't work on the rear of the van without modifications.

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Also, after inspecting these tires myself, the tires look as if they had bene stretched onto these 17'' x7.5 wheels. Nitto's sites say these tires rim width range is 6-7.5 but I wouldn't trust these tires being stretched like that as we could risk the tires coming off the rim edge.

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Then there's this, shoty wheel balancing, the tech mounted the weights on the rim edge.. Like they are going to stay/remain there while we're driving, I doubt it.. Clearly this whole deal was botched, first the wheels were late arriving at my nephews house, then there's so many issues with the wheels and tires not seated correct and worse the valve stems aren't recognized by the transit when programing.

This is another instance where, it looks good on paper, but when the wheel is actually installed on the vehicle, it doesn't fit. Don't make the same mistake we did by othering a set of tires that have not been physically tested on you make and model vehicle. Sure looks good on paper, but these did not fit and were haphazardly thrown together. Not happy at all with these wheels.

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Although we're having bad luck in several areas of the build, I was able to get some good news or positive news from a buddy of mine down in North Carolina. He owns a restoration shop and has access to several types of seats from a variety of ford vehicles This could be the shot in the arm we've bene needing. This could mean that both he and I hit some of the junk yards around his area and pull several types of seats out of wrecked vehicles or at least have me sit in the seats before we pull them. Current, the Mustang seats is tops on the list and I don't have a clue as to if this will take care of my lower back leg/knee issue. Its the last remaining option we have left and if the seats (no matter what they are) work/fit the van, we can always contact katzkins for custom seat covers.

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"No Pain, No Gain"

Here's the latest, My buddy in NC who has a restoration shop has access to several differant types of seats Plus we're going to hit a few salvage yards along the way. Not only will we be looking for Ford seats, but we've just included Mazda, Lincoln Mercury & Jaguar. As at some point all of these manufactures have taken part in the production of Ford products. So we're about ready to hit the road. Next week is going to be very busy for us as we're not going to be able to have the nephew install the brake pads or test fit the new wheels all because his family has bene quarantine indefinitely and with my leg like it is, I'll doubt I can bend or stretch like I need to to test fit these products myself. But again my buddy and his restoration shop is at least willing to do the new brake pads for us. Somewhere along the road we may opt to stop a tire shop and have them remove the crappy 215/50/17 tires and cheap valve stems.

BTW; Don't make the same mistake we did, we blindly ordered a set of wheels/tires from CariD and trusted them with the specs. These wheels and tires didn't fit and now CariD isn't willing to make this right. I've also posted a bad review about CariD on the BBB site. Oddly, there are tens of thousands of bad reviews on the BBB site and yet the BBB has given CariD an A+ rating.. Who's paid off Who here. With that many bad reviews, Carid should be closed. never buy wheels/tires unseen or untested and never trust what the salesman or their paper work says cause it's all lies. because CariD will not take these wheels/tires back or swap to the correct size tires, we're having to make adjustment and alterations ourselves to make these work. Thats $1,800 down the drain. But at least we have a buyer for the tires and get part of our money back.

The worse thing about all of this, is that we can't come in contact with my nephew or his family, so he's not going to be doing installation on the van, then we were suppose to be camping the full time while on the road and because the wheels/tires are in the back of the van, there's no room. So we've had to cancel several boondocking sites willing to allow us to camp with them a few nights. this would have been a new experience for us as we've never done this before.

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