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Thread: Camper van shopping

  1. #31
    Time for a van update. One thing after another has gotten in the way of any real progress, so I buckled down this holiday weekend and worked on the van every chance I had, which basically means "every time my 2.5 year old was napping."

    Previously completed items:
    -Awning-style window on driver's side DONE
    -Maxxair fan in roof DONE
    -Installed a thermostatic Espar diesel heater under the passenger's seat DONE
    -Plasti-dipped wheels (critical part of any van build) DONE
    -Sliding seat rails installed with custom under-floor supports DONE

    With the 8' seat rails installed I needed to bring the floor level up to 1.07" to match the height of the seat rails. I needed a combination of materials to match that height that provided insulation and sound-deadening without being too heavy. I began by filling the low points of the corrugated floor with 3/8" closed cell foam. That leveled the floor surface.


    (Ignore the full-width closed cell foam, that goes in later.)

    Over that I used a mix of 1/2" baltic birch battons and 1/2" polyisocanurate. Had I used all plywood I would have ended up with 1/2" plus the 5/16" factory floor, adding a lot of weight. So the battons provide strength and the polyiso provides insulation and helps bring the floor up to the level I need.

    The blue conduit will route wiring under the floor.

    Over that is 1/4" closed cell foam. Instead of throwing away the really nice 9mm 6-ply Delignit factory floor, I incorporated it into the floor sandwich and it sits on the 1/4" closed cell foam. On top of that is a vinyl floor that is floating--there will be enough cabinetry sitting on top that gluing is not necessary.



    Finally, I trimmed-out the edges with 2" x 2" aluminum.

    I would have liked to use stair nosing here but it seems all stair nosings are 1-1/8" high, which wasn't enough to cover the ugly bits that needed to be covered. In the end I really like the look of the aluminum and it matches the aluminum seat rail covers nicely. Now I've decided to go with aluminum as a theme of the build, so there will be quite a bit of raw aluminum incorporated in the interior. I am building my cabinets with extruded aluminum, but more on that later.

    With the floor done it's time to start working on electrical. First thing I learned is modern electrical systems are finicky. My experience with our 2012 Acura and 2013 Leaf is that many modern vehicles no longer use discrete relays to control high amp loads, they now incorporate solid state relays into the main ECU. All circuits are designed for very specific loads and not only is it nearly impossible to tap into these systems for adding things like lighting, when you do it's common to burn up circuit boards because you are pushing circuit board traces beyond the loads they were meant to carry. I've read about plenty of 5th gen 4Runners with burned-up body ECUs just from adding lighting and plenty of random CEL or error lights on the dashboards when your LED lightbar is tied to a chassis ground and your body ECU sees loads it doesn't expect. Anyone working on a modern vehicle needs to learn to wire in a completely new way, which means NO CHASSIS GROUNDS--all loads must have a second return wire to a common ground. In other words, you must wire it like a boat.

    The advantage is you can test your electrical mods before it ever touches the vehicle. Much to my daughter's dismay, her wagon becomes the test rig for the LiFePO4 battery and associated charging infrastructure.


    It may look like a bomb, but it's not. At least I hope it's not. What you see is a 300 watt single LG solar panel, a solar charge controller, circuit breaker, a contactor that opens if the solar charge controller faults and is headed towards overcharging the battery, and a mess of video cable for the monitor that tells me all the stats I need to know. Here's the thing with LiFePO4--it's not the technology in exploding hoverboards and 777s, this is a very robust lithium chemistry. You can put it in a dead short and worst case it will vent the battery. I wouldn't want to be around if that happened. This battery weighs 54 pounds and has 160 useable amp hours (200aH nominal), as you can use 80% of the capacity of a lithium battery. With lead acid and AGM you shouldn't go below 50% state of charge, and if you do you shortening it's life. It would take 197 pounds of battery taking up 3.5X the floor space to equal the power of this battery. It is also sealed and won't offgas like AGM under charging, which is safe to have inside the van.

  2. #32
    The LCD gives me all the geeky details including battery voltage, state of charge, individual cell voltages and temperature and it uses a shunt to constantly measure what is being taken from the battery and/or what is going into the battery via solar, so I can balance my electrical use.



    I can also check up on things with a smartphone app.


    At the time the screenshot was taken my 300W panel was putting out the equivalent of 240W of power at 16.3 amps. It also reports back battery voltage. If you really want to geek out it will tell you the battery starting and ending voltage and total solar intake each day for the past 30 days. You know, all the stuff the ladies in your life are dying to hear about.

    Panel on roof. It took a buddy's scaffolding to safely get it up there. The cross bars are 80/20 extruded aluminum, do I get to talk about that yet?


    What I like most is the stealth factor--this picture was taken from a raised deck and you barely even notice it's up there.


    And now for the part I've been wanting to share with you guys--extruded aluminum. Anyone following the van build world knows that 80/20 extruded aluminum is all the rage. It's super strong, light and easy to work with. I have 80 pounds worth of battery, inverter, chargers, etc in a box in the rear of the van that I don't want hitting me should something horrific happen on the highway. Good luck making a compact, strong and light box to serve that purpose using wood. So here's the start of my electronics closet.


    I cut it in my Craftman miter saw using an 80-tooth non ferrous blade, cuts like butter. It's super easy to change your design and move pieces up or down or side-to-side, something you can't do when constructing with wood. The downside is it ain't cheap and the connectors are an absolute rip-off, so I made my own using 3/16" angle and 1/4-20 carriage bolts. Not my idea, some champs on the sprinter forums pioneered it.

    All of my cabinetry will be framed with 80/20. It would be perfect for a raised bed platform in a 4Runner, for a drawer box in a pickup or as a super adaptable garage organizer in lieu of the Gladiator-type products. Where has 80/20 been my entire life?

    Next up...more holes in the van--need to get the solar wiring inside, need to wire 120v outlets, DC distribution blocks, etc. Then I can finally insulate the walls. Then I can build my cabinets, and then finally cover up those godforsaken metal cargo van walls. I have people walking up to the van everywhere I go expecting some kind of marvelous interior and their reaction when they see inside is always the same...."ooooh." In other words, I've been camping in a FedEx truck.

  3. #33
    While you're in the pseudo out of doors surrounded by forced air, insulation and AC power don't forget about the campfire.

    https://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog...e-the-campfire

  4. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by 4x4mike View Post
    While you're in the pseudo out of doors surrounded by forced air, insulation and AC power don't forget about the campfire.

    https://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog...e-the-campfire
    Yup, the whole point of the van is to travel further and longer than before. The van will be great for that but the 4Runner and tent (and fire) will not be forgotten.

  5. #35
    Very nice Ken. So at the current pace, when do you think you'll be done?
    -------------------------
    Steve
    1993 4runner, SAS, 3.0L, Auto Tranny
    2007 4runner, stock. For now.

  6. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by paddlenbike View Post
    The LCD gives me all the geeky details including battery voltage, state of charge, individual cell voltages and temperature and it uses a shunt to constantly measure what is being taken from the battery and/or what is going into the battery via solar, so I can balance my electrical use.

    ....

    I can also check up on things with a smartphone app.
    Ken,

    You make Team Japan from Cannonball Run proud.


    And now for the part I've been wanting to share with you guys--extruded aluminum.
    Time to build a cargo box if this stuff is easy to work with!

    - Bob

  7. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Robinhood4x4 View Post
    Very nice Ken. So at the current pace, when do you think you'll be done?
    Quote Originally Posted by Robinhood4x4 View Post
    Very nice Ken. So at the current pace, when do you think you'll be done?
    Done? I think probably never; I can see myself constantly tinkering with it.

    I am trying not to put pressure on myself with timelines as I want to continue to enjoy the process of building it. We are using it now and even in carcass form it's a game-changer for travel. Just the simple vent fan overhead makes sleeping more comfortable than being in a stagnant tent. That said, I still love sleeping in a tent. But to answer your question I think it should be mostly done by early next year, which would mean about a one-year build time, working on it 6.5 hours per week plus maybe an hour or two here and there. That's all the time I have with a little one at home.

    Time to build a cargo box if this stuff is easy to work with!
    Bob, I highly recommend 80/20. It's easy to work with and you can make changes to your design with ease.

  8. #38
    Great work Ken!
    This is an awesome build, looking forward to seeing what other fun gadgets you incorporate into the build!

    The extruded-aluminum is a great idea, and Bob just got my brain working with the cargo box idea.
    Do you have a local source for the materials, or did you find most of what you needed online?
    I've only done a quick google search and there seems to be a good number of online sources it seems, but I am more of a tangible guy and like to look at the materials in hand and try to lay out my idea right there in the store... (I don't think Home Depot and Lowes were happy with me when I started using their isle with galvanized pipe as a mock wall of my house...)
    Avdian (Avy, Avi, Av, Eddie are some nicknames)
    Tess - 97' 4Runner "Project Something Or Another"
    Natascha - 99' GTI 2.0 N/A Auto - SOLD!!
    Swordfish - 05' Camry 2.4 Auto

  9. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by YotaFun View Post
    Great work Ken!
    This is an awesome build, looking forward to seeing what other fun gadgets you incorporate into the build!

    The extruded-aluminum is a great idea, and Bob just got my brain working with the cargo box idea.
    Do you have a local source for the materials, or did you find most of what you needed online?
    I've only done a quick google search and there seems to be a good number of online sources it seems, but I am more of a tangible guy and like to look at the materials in hand and try to lay out my idea right there in the store... (I don't think Home Depot and Lowes were happy with me when I started using their isle with galvanized pipe as a mock wall of my house...)
    I got a good laugh out of the mock-wall comment. The two manufacturers of the stuff that I am aware of are 80/20 (the original) www.8020.net and Futura Industries T-Slots www.tslots.com. In my area the closest is Bay Area, and not wanting to drive there I ordered locally from Fastenal. It's more expensive through them but my original order was small volume so it was cheaper to order from them than paying shipping from the other companies. For larger orders I will probably drive to the Bay and perhaps harass Bob while I'm down there. Afterall, I have a FedEx truck so I may as well use it, as it easily swallows the 12-foot sticks.

    BTW, 80/20 main location is Indiana.

  10. #40
    I am a visual person, and am horrible at math and factions, so it is always best for me to actually lay it out before I build it.
    This is a blessing and curse since I can imagine so many cool projects in my head but the actual scale of it could be way off...

    Thank you for the info!
    The www.8020.net was the first to pop up in my google search, but I haven't gotten a chance to explore the site much further from my phone. I will have to check out my local Fastenal, they are not as easy to work with out here as I remember they were out west.

    So with the box complete, what are your thoughts on materials to close it all in?
    Avdian (Avy, Avi, Av, Eddie are some nicknames)
    Tess - 97' 4Runner "Project Something Or Another"
    Natascha - 99' GTI 2.0 N/A Auto - SOLD!!
    Swordfish - 05' Camry 2.4 Auto

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