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170 Posts
It absolutely isn't but neither is putting in a fridge, plumbing, etc.
TBH it cost $150 and lots of hours but I'd do it again

Brilliant! I've just been living with a moderate amount of shavings on my magnets, but I really like the latex/nitrile glove idea.

Step 9 Attach the Roof Rack
There is a thread on this forum of a guy that built a low profile unistrut roof rack for his solar panels.
I copied that build, and I'd say it worked 90% perfectly.
I bought 10' of rail, and the front and rear feet are about 11' maybe 12' apart. But I just slid it forward and used the first 6 mounting feet, not all 8.
Using the Van Tech feet to mount to the unistrut rails, I used two sets of washers and nyloc nuts to hold them down.
Six feet total, three per side. Holds great.
The feet are expensive for what they are, but they do work well.

Step 10.0 Set Up Solar System
As 8 an 8 year old boy I loved the solar system, never thought I'd build my own haha.
But for real, it seems like every build has a main component of solar, even though it seems like a $100 isolator off the engine battery seems like it'll give me more Wh.
I suppose it does make sense to have multiple sources for different times in the trip.
Back to the task at hand though.
Yesterday I got four holes drilled in the roof, two filled with silicon, two filled with wires (measure twice!).
The panels will be 2x 275W (550W total) panels wired in series.
Solar controller is the Renogy Rover 40a.
Can't provide a review for either yet, but both seem good.
60 cell is key, as it fits perfectly sideways on the van. 72 cell is too long.
I plugged them in downstairs, didn't read anything off the panels as it was basement lighting, so here's hoping it will give me some readings this week!
They still need to be hard mounted to the roof (have to secure the cable entry gland first, going to do that tonight), and totally plugged in.

Step 11 Build a Box for the Water Tank
Small step, but had to be done.
Leah found an awesome tank off instagram that fits over the wheel wells (name?)
It was made for a sprinter, so I had to shim up the box off the floor.
Simple 2x4 C frame, and then I painted it white to blend in with the theme.

Step 12.0 First Interior Mock Up
I meant to do this earlier, but we finally had some large components (bed,fridge) that gave us a better picture of what our space is going to look like.
Basically we decided to scrap our initial idea of seats on both sides of the van, and go for a single bench seat for two.
This was due to the large fridge we purchased.
Here's my idea to have the fridge not slide out, but be accessible. Please let me know if you can think of ideas/improvements.
All in all it really gave us a greater appreciation for the tiny amount of space we're about to live in, but hey better than the Tacoma with a RTT!
The bed is lower than it will be, but the original position was too high, so we wanted to see a different angle.
Where did you get that water tank? And how many gallons is it?

67 Posts
Discussion Starter #23
Update from last night.
Put in lots of shopping time. Got a water pump ordered (SHURFlo 4008-101-E65), faucet (amazon), bought plumbing, went and scoped out batteries and sinks.
Put in time on continuing to panel the van. Got the driver side wall mostly done and the rear passenger door mostly done. Still need roof, rear driver door, and sliding door.

67 Posts
Discussion Starter #24
I'm looking for a review of my electrical schematic.
The WF-8945 is supposed to be able to charge my batteries off of the 120V, and also be the fuse panel for my loads.
So hopefully the attachment works and can also be used as a reference for future builds.

I need to include manual disconnects for all three sources.
I'm nervous about grounding things to different places than my main ground, but I rigged up the light bar and it worked.
The light bar is the only one with rated W more than recommended AWG and the fuse. (26a vs 25 fuse with 14 AWG) Maybe the LEDs aren't that much wattage?
No harm in fusing the 1a appliances to 5a if the wire is good for 10a eh?
Renogy said that 8 AWG is good for 40a if it's less than 8' but the internet says go 6 minimum.


67 Posts
Discussion Starter #25
Okay time for a long overdue update.
I put in two hard weeks of work finishing the roof rack, getting the batteries figured out, framing the batteries in, getting the interior panels almost done, getting cabinets and counters started, buying plumbing components, electrical components, bought flooring.
Its crazy the amount of work these conversions take! We're months into the build, with over $5000 into it, and we can't even sleep in it or turn on any lights, jeez!
Unfortunately I'm in Holland for three weeks, and Leah is on stress leave as her work is very high profile and they had issues.
So we had a bit of a pause, packed up the van from my place and moved it to Leah's where the build will continue.
We still are chasing our goal of being done for Christmas but man does it seem like 1.5 months is coming quick!

I'll update steps and photos soon

Premium Member
8,722 Posts
WOW. I picked up my Van July 21, 2015 started a few days later and we left with it “finished” October 13, I did not work on it every day. You should have plenty of time by Christmas. KIS!
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67 Posts
Discussion Starter #27
Okay work on a Friday sounds like the last thing I want to do, so time for an update!

Step 8.2 Finish Plywood Walls
Leah finished up the back doors and the passenger sliding door.
Feels much nicer to be in a "finished" environment than a industrial metal van.
Don't have a great picture of the passenger door, but you can see it's in.

Step 10.1 Finish Installing Solar Panels, LED Bar, Roof Rack
Had the whole family over to help out with the panels, and got the wiring all hooked up and ran.
Leah and I drilled the holes in the van for the screws to keep the waterproof gland (for PV cables) secured to the roof.
We screwed the cover down, tightened the gland nuts to seal the cover to the plastic, used butyl tape and lap sealant to seal the cover to the van roof.
The cover was positioned so it would run the wires right into the rib halfway down the driver wall.
This works great as it's totally covered by the PV panel, so it's triple protected from water penetration.
Unfortunately the wires that came with the LED bar didn't reach the cover, so we got a gland nut and drilled a hole closer to the front.
But the wiring worked out really well! We mounted the switch to be in the center headliner, and fused to the house battery rather than the engine battery.
The bar is curved, which I haven't had before; really throws light into the ditches well

Step 13 Buy and Install Garage Floor
Before building the battery box and everything there, I wanted to get the waterproof floor in.
That way everything that goes on it can be sealed down, rather than cutting the floor and maybe making errors, resulting in gaps.
My brother (thanks Rick!) and I burned it out in a night, felt good to have a one day project start to finish.

Step 12 Buy and Install Batteries
Originally bought 4 Trojan T105 6V 230ah batteries to run in series-parallel.
Fantastic! $1000 CAD and we have 460ah to allow us to run off grid for 4 days without power!
Unfortunately we decided that the off gas, maintenance, spill possibilty, made AGM the correct answer.
So I took back the batteries, and bought new ones.
So even though we had to downgrade output and increase cost, we got a solution I feel good about.
2x Trojan L16-AGM batteries 370ah 6V, wired in series.
These are BIG batteries, as your can see when they are in the bed of my truck.
Plus they were a total of $650 CAD and trust me, I shopped around a ton, including the US and the internet. Ended up buying local.
Also, over 100 lbs each, so fitting them in and out of the battery box was a lot of lift with the legs haha.
When I'm looking at other builds, it looks like I am significantly more worried with crash rating, but I really don't want 250 lbs moving at all.
So built a big 2x4 box bolted through the floor to keep them very secure.

Step 13.0 Buy and Install Power Centre
Went with the WFCO WF-8945 power center.
It takes in 120V, and outputs to the batteries on 12V.
It also takes the 12V and fuses it out, so I had originally bought a fuse block but now it is just a fancy paperweight.
The current location is a plywood panel that I will frame in once I'm back from Holland.
Pretty flush with the wheel well, so not using more space than needed.
Some of the wiring to go to the switch has been put over to the passenger sink area already, so when we are ready to put the switch panel in it should just fire up.
Wire gauges as per my PDF a few posts ago.

One of my overland/wheeling buddies (@expeditiontundrabeast) was cleaning out his garage and very nicely donated some traction board and a Hi-Lift jack!
Not sure if I'm going to mount them on the roof or inside, or the back yet, but they'll come along so we can beach cruise and get out.

Step 14.0 Cabinets - Begin Building
The bases for the driver side upper cabinet and both kitchen cabinets are bolted in securely.
These have been measured soooo many times, so hopefully they accommodate the sink, grey water, water pump, drawers, stove, cabinets, cutting boards, wiring, etc.
Currenty the bases are in and the plan for cutting the cabinet uprights is underway.
Anyone want to comment on building the cabinets and then bolting them in, versus installing the cabinets in the van first?

The morning before I flew out, we wanted to move the van from my house to Leah's place so it would be easier for her to work on it for these three weeks.
This invlolved paking EVERYTHING up and loading it in, which was quite funny.
We'll have to do the reverse on Nov 24th or so, but it'll be fine.

1,556 Posts
[B said:
Step 11 Build a Box for the Water Tank[/B]
Small step, but had to be done.
Leah found an awesome tank off instagram that fits over the wheel wells (name?)
It was made for a sprinter, so I had to shim up the box off the floor.
Simple 2x4 C frame, and then I painted it white to blend in with the theme.

Thanks for posting your build thread?

Of all the things I found interesting, Im really interested in your water tank. Is there any way you can source the manufacturer?


67 Posts
Discussion Starter #29

Thanks for posting your build thread?

Of all the things I found interesting, Im really interested in your water tank. Is there any way you can source the manufacturer?

Thanks to you too! I've been reading yours quite closely.
I'm not exactly sure who manufactured ours as we got it off a guy in Colorado, but phil above said NW Conversions
If you're keen, I'd get them to maybe custom one so that the height match the promaster height. That'd make it probably a 25 gallon for the same footprint. The ones they make are custom already anyways so should't be more work hopefully.

1,556 Posts
Thanks to you too! I've been reading yours quite closely.
I'm not exactly sure who manufactured ours as we got it off a guy in Colorado, but phil above said NW Conversions

If you're keen, I'd get them to maybe custom one so that the height match the promaster height. That'd make it probably a 25 gallon for the same footprint. The ones they make are custom already anyways so should't be more work hopefully.

Thanks MFA
Thanks Phil

I will check it out. ?

67 Posts
Discussion Starter #31
Okay after the long hiatus from the board, I'm back in Canada!
Leah and I had 3-4 good days when I got back, plus the hard work she accomplished while I was gone.

Step 14.1 Cabinets
Learning how to woodwork correctly is quite fun!
A lot of thinking and trying and fiddling around is required, but it certainly is cool to see things come together.
We bought pre-routed drawer parts, so we could assemble the drawers easier.
These things are huge! 20" x 21" drawers on 100lb sliders.
So we should be able to contain our entire kitchen and lots of other things (cleaning etc) as well.
The cabinet is sized to fit our slow cooker, so hopefully that works out.
We used 1/2" baltic birch for the cabinet wood, 5/8" for the drawer sides, 1/4" for the drawer bottoms

Step 15 Wall Finishing
Leah decided to go with a really nice laminate for the finishing.
Originally it was to be white shiplap, but after thinking it over, we're going with a more "cabin" look.
The hardest part is waiting! The Adhesive only works above -4C and it's been -15 for the past week!
Thank goodness for basement workshops I will say that.

Step 16 Wiring
Having mounted the batteries and the power center, it was time to get at least one light turned on.
With that running, then you know the circuit is complete, your ground locations are correct, and everything jives.
Lots of hours of thinking, with 5 minutes of making the connection haha.

386 Posts
... let there be light ... (and it only took me 84 ! days... lol)

67 Posts
Discussion Starter #33 (Edited)
It was a full weekend where not a lot visually got done, but lots of work was done.
I'd heard on the internet that drawers can be a pain in the butt, and man were they right!
We spent most of Saturday putting the passenger side cabinet together, and the drawers when we slid them in, only the middle one cleared the opening haha.
Sunday Leah and her dad conquered the cabinet, got all of the holes drilled where lines will be, got all the drawers working, got all the screws in and lined up.
My dad and I tackled the electrical, specifically getting the lights finished, fuses placed, a disconnect installed.

17 Lights
While we were finishing the roof in laminate, we put in 12V potlights from Amazon.
The hole saw was a 2 1/4 I believe, and the laminate and the lights were exactly the same thickness.
So we hole sawed the plywood under the laminate to give room for the connectors to sit, and connected the wires we ran earlier to the lights via blade connectors (male -> female is + -> - )
Once the roof was done, a bit of construction adhesive between the light and the roof, with shims to keep them in place for a few hours, was used.
Really stoked with how these turned out.
We used a two switch dimmer, as we wanted front and back lights (so the bed could be darker if someone gets up).
So the front four lights are on one switch, the rear four on the second switch.
Switches turn on the dimmer, which is totally redundant but hey, way she goes.
Lights (2 packs)
Dimmer switch
Switch panel

18 Cabinets
I might separate this one into a passenger cabinet and a driver cabinet as they are both fairly involved.
The passenger side has:
Sink, faucet, grey water storage, tankless hot water (so propane line), three drawers, a cutout of Alberta to clear the van rib, the switch panel, the dimmers, a ground, and the Propex thermostat.
The way we built the outer shell is to stand up 2x4s, bolt them through the floor for crash sturdiness, and then put a plywood on top of that.
The plywood sticks out 2" so we have a toe kick (my request :))
The face plate has cutouts for the drawers, the switch panel, the dimmers, the thermostat.
The plate facing the back has holes for plumbing and propane (7/8" each for easy clearance)
The plate facing the van wall has a cutout for the grey water to be accessed from the open door, as well as a cutout of Alberta, so it could fit "flush" even though that rib sticks out.
Oh also, a hole where the wires were ran through the roof and come out, its a 1 1/2" hole about 28" from the floor height. The wires come out into the cabinet so it's all hidden.
The plate facing the passenger seat is oversized from the rest, so it covers everything and provides a clean look when you open the door.
All of it 1/2" baltic birch for good rigidity and warp resistance.
Wood glue and pre-drilled wood screws hold it otgether

18.1 Drawers
The drawers were pre-routered parts, which we cut to size. The driver side is 21" deep, the passenger side is 18" deep.
Due to the location of the switch panel, we cut the top drawer top be 4.5" tall, the others are all 8.5" tall.
This will be out cutlery drawer, so that's perfect.
We built the drawers as follows:
From the outside edge, cut notches to allow the drawer hardware to slide out (didn't think of that when we cut the drawer holes)
Attach the drawer slides to the cabinet where you measure to and it fits in the slot. Drill the first screw, square it up, drill the second screw.
Attach the hardware to the drawer. Same thing, measure the first screw, square it, drill the second screw.
Lay the cabinet down so the side with the hardware attached is down, let gravity work.
Measure where the other drawer hardware SHOULD go.
Attach it, it binds. Say **** it because it's after 10 pm and we have a Christmas party.
Go to party, have a great time, drag our drunk asses out at 1:30, stay up at home until after 2, groggily make it back to the van in the morning around 11.
Adjust the hardware on the drawers (they have horizontal slots) and make sure everything rolls smooth.
Now we have soft close drawers!
I'll update this post when the cabinets are painted and in place.

16.1 Wiring

Sunday was mostly getting protection installed for the electrical system, and scratching our heads on the propane install plumbing.
The switch panel is mostly wired, so we just ran the wires deeper to get covered by the cabinet. Done for now.
The disconnect switch was installed to shut off any input current (alternator, solar, both, off).
The LED light bar was wired into the fuse box, green checkmark there!
The fridge was "test wired" in to the fuse panel, still needs to get a final install with correct grounds and connections.
Funny story on this: I had the 12V plug with a cigarette lighter end, so I cut it in half, exposed the ends, then plugged it into the socket! (see pic)
So I had a high power arc maker. I didn't make it arc, as that's hard on things, but it'd be neat to light a smoke off it or something.
Once I figured out positive in that wire, I took the other end and butt sliced it into wires that work with my system.
The wires are just held with marettes for now


Renogy Rover (MPPT) says do not connect panels before connecting the battery.
If I place a disconnect between the Rover and the battery, that's effectively the same right?
So is that safe, or do I need to place a disconnect between the + of the panel and the + of the Rover?
I've got an email into Renogy, so I'll add their official answer too.

Can the Dometic fridge be frozen?
We bought it off a guy and he said it would kill it if so.

Premium Member
8,722 Posts
I have a disconnect for the + wire from the panels. They will not be harmed by being disconnected.

67 Posts
Discussion Starter #36
Are you referring to these statements,
View attachment 59736

View attachment 59737
That is exactly the statement I am worried about

I have a disconnect for the + wire from the panels. They will not be harmed by being disconnected.
Why do they state it?
I would think if you didn't have an output to charge, they just would allow the potential to be connected, and thus flow current?
Maybe if the ground wire is always connected it's fine?
Just don't want to hurt the Rover for any reason.

Update from last couple nights
We glued and screwed the driver side cupboard, and sanded/filled/primed the passenger side cupboard.

Super Moderator
9,063 Posts
I have a disconnect for the + wire from the panels. They will not be harmed by being disconnected.
Ha ha! i also have a disconnect switch on my + wire from the panels before it goes into the controller. Sometimes it even gets shut off by accident and when I notice there is no solar output that’s the first thing I check!

3,554 Posts

67 Posts
Discussion Starter #39 (Edited)
Okay another weekend down, a bunch of green check marks completed!
First and foremost we got the passenger side cupboard in and wiring completed on that side.
Faucet and sink are in place, drawers are in but we're keeping them out until the wiring is totally done.
We finished mounting the switch panel and dimmers, so lights are complete.
The battery doctor went in, and the solar is hooked up.
Started on the propex, will contiue that.

I'm going to just keep the numbers for my titles to keep things organized, but down the road I'm going to compile all of this (probably on my website) and redo the numbers.

18.2 Cabinet
Installed the passenger side cupboard Friday night.
Required routering our the 1/2" ply to make room for the washers and nuts, but lesson learned, always plan for the hardware to be used, not just the wood.
We installed the sink and the faucet into the cupboard before we moved it (warm inside).
No plumbing is running, but gives us a better sense of how it'll look (plus we're really stoked on how it looks haha).
Not sure if I've mentioned, but we put the faucet by the door opening, so it can pivot outside to be a shower/wash station for our outdoor gear.
We originally thought that we'd have a shower out the back, so you can hang a shower curtain from the doors.
But right now it just makes more sense to use the same setup in the right place.
The sink will drain into grey water tanks held in the cupboard, and there is a big opening for the tanks to be lifted out when the sliding door is opened.
That way they can be dumped easily.

16.2 Wiring (Passenger Cupboard Switch Panel)
After the cupboard was installed, we put the switch panel in place.
The biggest thing at this point was to disconnect the main power to the switch and replace it with dedicated circuits.
The switch panel I linked in post #33 has one wire input for power, then it runs the 6 switches in parallel.
That's great for most installations (its 15a per), but we wanted to make sure each was fused correctly (5a, 10a, etc).
So we cut the wires that linked things in parallel and connected wires from the driver side fuse panel, to the passenger side switch panel.
These have all been color coded with electrical tape and assigned a number (number matches the switch and the fuse).
Water pump and propex just have their wires ran with lots of tail in between the water box and the cupboard.
The dimmer switches got installed beside the switch panel, and the thermostat will eventually go next to the dimmers

16.3 Wiring (Battery Doctor)
Our two main sources of power are the solar and the engine battery.
The WirthCo Battery Doctor got installed Saturday, and I'm super proud of that install.
Basically, it is a voltage sensing relay. If the voltage on the main battery is higher than 13.4V, it connects. If it drops below 12.8V, it disconnects.
This allows you to charge the aux batteries when driving, and drain the aux batteries without draining the main battery.
It also has a override button to manually connect the two batteries, so you can boost your main battery off the aux battery.
The engine battery box has about a 4" x 12" open volume that was perfect to mount inside.
I simply used the L bracket that came with the package, and 1/4" bolts to go through the plastic.
I needed 2' of 4 AWG from the main battery to the far side of the battery box and the battery isolator.
Through a solar installer I work for, he picked up 16.5' of 4 AWG wire to carry the possibly 100a (I've read you won't get more than 80a) from the battery isolator to the aux batteries.
Attach ground to ground, and you can see the voltage on the batteries go from ~12.5V to ~14.2V when you start the engine!
The wires were ran along the factory wires, there was a tray for (heated seats?) that was open, so it holds the big wire in place.
Again, super stoked to the product, on my install, and on hopefully our main source of power as we go along our trip.

19 Propex & Gas
Started to install it on Sunday, got nowhere fast as we went to Lowe's, Rona, Crappy Tire before making it to the promised land of Home Depot.
Anyways, we decided to install it behind the kitchen/garage partition on top of the water tank for a few reasons:
Airflow (heat generated needs air, so the water pump and propex are in the same place with lots of open air)
Storage space (was going to be in the driver cupboard but that's critical storage, the walls of the garage aren't critical)
Near the switch panel (though this is offset by not near the propane haha)
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