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Van #2 2021 EXT
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello DIYer Gang;

So I have been working on a plan for a new build🙀

Unlike my 2018/2019 build, I have actually successfully joint this Forum as a Member (as of June 2019) after my initial attempt in the fall of 2018. I was basically too excited to read the instructions of "How to Join the Forum" ,,, Whaaaaattt

Anyway; So I get to do a "Do Over". After building Van #1; I am starting the design process of Van #2 & I will document the process thru this thread. Hopefully it is of some help to other DIYers so see at least my process of Design & Build.

So here is where I am at today with my Floor Plan Design so far;

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Here are the things we have committed to;
2021 3500 EXT with factory swivel seats (white)
CRL Slider Window "fixed" part number FW385R (same as before)
Maxxair Roof Fan - 0007000K all white with black remote (same roof location as before)
Curious Campervans; 22 USG PM Wheel Well Tanks (drivers & passengers 44 USG total)
Queen width bed (60" wide) same as before

Items I am sorting out in my mind "Design";
Fridge - TF130
Batteries - AGM - Placement & 12vdc distribution
Heater - Propex HS2800 with "Digistat"
Bed Design - under bed "roll top" access from living area side
Propane Lockers - currently behind the fresh water wheel well tanks "P"
Upper Cabinet Design
Lower Cabinet Design
Colours & Surfaces "aesthetics"

There are other items I am thinking of that are on the peripheral, but not very high resolution at this time.

I truly welcome all, opinions, ideas, & critiques - as all of these can assist me at this point. I find it easier to build within my mind or on paper, as it is much easier to alter the paper floor plan than the actual build.

TIA
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Curious as to what your major changes will be and why.

Well as I am in the design process (incomplete right now) those major changes are yet to be determined.

That being said; the 1st major change is the 2 wheel well fresh water tanks (44 USG vs the 30 USG single).

My tanks arrived yesterday - Thanks @Curious Campervans 😁



Another change (since my water tanks will be around the wheel wells) is access to the storage from under the bed from the living space (Van #1 has equipment and a water tank up against the bed gable of that area). This will allow us to access a large storage volume from inside the van rather than from outside the van.

Factory Swivel Seats; utilizing what already comes with the PM Van.

I am leaning towards a TF130 - still accessible from the sliding door & inside the van (we mostly cook outside).

Mostly it is similar in layout from our Van #1, but hopefully with better space efficiency. I floundered somewhat with Van #1 with the goal of wanting to build a van fully dependant on electricity and nothing else - I failed miserably at that. This time around I will be planning for propane from the get go !!

Your Build @MsNomer utilizes under bed access from inside the van & I think you were a smart cookie to utilize the space that way. You know the value of "space" & "open space". You know that during the design process a designer is fighting for inches if not fractions of inches to maximize space efficiency. At the end of the day I prefer DIY over factory build for two reasons; The Cost of Factory & I do not like Factory Designs as much as creating my own "Custom" to fit our needs/wants. I find Factory "spaces" non-ergonomic for our use. Your build is Very Ergonomic.

My 2018 van was purchased off the dealer's lot & it was like ok "GO" get built. My 2021 will be arriving sometime in the future (I hope) 🙄 So I got time on my side to figure it out. and this time around all of you here to help me 😁
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hi @Motor7

We will be filling them from the inside (so just open up the doors and fill with a hose - no additional hole in the outside walls of the van - KIS).

@Curious Campervans were just excellent to deal with. We ordered 4 tanks as my Buddy @CDN_PM has a 2021 PM on order (he is probably watching the Mexican Port Internet Cameras as I am typing this reply to you), and they were at my door 3 business days later.

I believe it is good efficient use of the volume around the wheel wells. Everything adds up for the build costs, but for me it is worth having wheel well tanks.

Here are some photos for you;
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
RV8R.......ok, I'm convinced. Now, I am thinking one tank for the shower and one for the sink. Are you going to run 2 pumps, or tie them together as one? Then both drain into the same grey tank...or as I ponder some type of sprinkler system;)
We currently have 1 30 USG tank in our 2018 PM. On this build I am keeping my options open as long as possible (1 or 2 pumps not yet decided). We will only be having 1 sink. The Van Design for me is resisting painting myself into a corner - so my possibly 2 pumps?

I may want an Isotherm HWT. We drink from our fresh water tanks. If we do go the Isotherm hot water system, I am paranoid of getting poisoned so a drinking and washing tank can be designated. So I will probably run 2 - 1/2" PEX lines to under the sink area and thus "the ability" to have a 2 pump system (drinking & sink) - even if we only start with 1 pump it will be setup for easy convertibility.

Hope that makes sense?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
One other thing, I am confused by Sportmobile's van length description.

Extended body OAL is 19'.8'
Long body OAL is 20'.10"

Both are 159WB...do they not have those backwards( thought the EXT was the longest from the factory)? The reason I am asking is there is a big difference in the coveted 3" grid they laid out.

I have a 2021 3500 EXT on order; The Sportmobile graph is out a little bit here and there - but I understand the actual dimensions of an EXT or a 2018 in the very least. My drawing is based upon an EXT & where I know the wheel wells, slider, etc are on an EXT. Since this is my 2nd Rodeo, I also have an idea where I can gain some inches here and there (reference - shifting a "queen width" bed 1" or 2" aft towards the rear doors from my original starting point of the full width of the rear pillars).

The EXT is 20' 10" overall length (the longest on the Sportmobile). The EXT is 160" on the floor from the rear door to the forward most cab step down.

If it helps here is my 1st build floor plan;

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Awesome. Looking forward to your build. I have always suspected subsequent builds improve on the originals.
Thanks @Sather 😁

Well you know, I need something to do while waiting for the Covid to get vaccinated away. I'm pretty excited about dreaming up an improved design on what we have now, as it is kind of like figuring out a puzzle. The strange thing is I really thought the research would be next to nothing on Van #2, but that really has not been the case. At least this time I am not rushed as I do not expect to get my 2021 PM for a few months. I have noticed substantial increases in the cost of products from a few short years ago, but I have some time to shop around a bit.

I am looking forward to the process & will attempt to keep this thread current(ish), for others to see my DIY Design/Build process - FWIW.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 · (Edited)
I'm not sure how you are planning the details of the back doors, but in my build design I have planned now for a large fixed bug screen so I can open up the back (from the outside) and basically be both inside the van and feel like I'm outside. It sounds like a tiny detail, but it's important functionally.

I know your current van doesn't have solar, but a little extra juice is almost always welcome. I'm planning to put some of the Renogy 175W flexible panels on top. Just a thought.
Thanks @jkmann

The rear door bug screen is a great idea & something I will put on my list, & I agree functionally important.

I hear ya on the solar. On my current van I can easily add it if I want it. I will setup the new one in a similar configuration. So far we really have not needed solar. The type of van use we have we are usually driving every day while on a trip. Depending on the time of year or location solar can be great. The PM vans are surprisingly aerodynamically efficient for what they are. I am well aware that items hanging out in the laminar flow on the roof can cause a mileage penalty (if ya drive lots a bigger deal than if ya drive little). So far we have not needed solar - but your suggestion is a good one & I will make allowances to easily add a system in case it is useful down the road. Thanks for your suggestion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Hi RV8R,
good luck with the new build.
if I remember right you live on Vancouver Island. There is a very nice shop on the island
www.vanagonwestfaliaparts.com. These guys can deliver any part from Reimo catalog which is the biggest catalog in Europe: English. They delivered to me things like 12"x12" Dometic micro roof light, Dometic roof light, sink and some other staff. I was about to buy Dometic double pane window or Carbest windows but finally bought a van with factory windows. If you search catalog search for Fiat Ducato. The problem is lead time. It can take up to 2 months to get you order but looks like you are not in harry:).
Hey @Alexx

Thanks for all that I will take a look at those sites and see if there are items I want 😁. and yes I live on Vancouver Island there are many here fond of the VWs

Appreciate the heads up !!
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Free hot water while you drive is definitely the way to go.

Over the last 27 years we've had 3 campers including our current 2014 Promaster that have used an engine heated Isotherm water heater with only a single supply of water for drinking, cooking and showering. Before that we lived aboard sailboats for 20 years with engine heated hot water with no contamination.

The boating community has been doing this literally for decades and European have used them for a long time as well although they call them calorifiers.

If it's a high quality unit like the Isotherm contamination is not a concern. We don't worry about it.

If you want to worry about something, worry about the connections to the engine and the hoses to Isotherm. We used quality fittings and hose and have valves in the hoses that we can close in case of a leak that would endanger the engine.

And install an ODB II engine monitor like ScanGauge II that displays engine coolant temperature in real time unlike the Promaster gauge that will only indicate overheating from coolant loss After all the coolant is gone. Ask the FitRv or forum member Winston for confirmation. Their coolant loss was due to a second alternator installation not an Isotherm.

Good like with your new conversion. As i said this is our 3rd and we think they get better each time.
Thank You @tgregg

When I think of Isotherm (or Johnson Pumps), I actually think of you & how experienced you are with them & you what I believe sound great advice regarding these units ( then I also think of @SteveSS who also is a good builder & an experienced RVer like yourself ). I have copied your notes here & I have already “reserved” a spot for a HWT & it will most likely be an Isotherm (I need to research about the reset issue a bit).

Fear is a weird thing; I can literally build an airplane & fly it down to & over the Grand Canyon without any hesitation, but I get stuck inan all stainless steel, high quality Isotherm into my water supply equasion. I am aware that my fear makes no sense. How does that saying go “You Only Die Once Too” (YODOT the pessimistic YOLO).😜

My reserved spot for an Isotherm is under the sink. The HWT will be one of the last items installed. For the additional 24” of 1/2” PEX, I will bring fresh water into the sink cabinet from both fresh water tanks on separate lines (they can be tee’d before the pump under the sink). This will give me the flexibility of configuring my plumbing anyway I want it once into the sink compartment (an alternative compartment for the pump etc would be under the “roll top / bi-pass door” compartment under the bed).

I do like having hot water & “free” is good.

Thank You for your excellent advice in regards to the Isotherm !!
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
RV8R,
I too will do another build someday... and at that time I may even change the platform. Did you consider any other vehicles like the Transit or Sprinter? Or even a cube van on a chassis (PM or Transit)? Just wondering.
Great question @ShaunB

Yes !! I did

But not a cube van

IMO, the PM EXT offers us the best platform for the best pricing. If not a PM then my next choice would be the Mercedes. If the Mercedes was unavailable I would then go for a Ford. However, before buying the Ford, I would most likely look at other options that would not be a fair comparison “switch gears outta a camper van”.

In other words, I would probably subject myself to the Mercedes if I had to, but would most likely buy a “small holiday trailer” before buying a Ford.

From a DIY design/build perspective the PM is a very easy platform to build to. From a camper’s perspective it is a very usable camping van being FWD & a low floor height to ground step up. I won’t list all the advantages here, but the PM has many over the other two.

The 4x4 Mercedes if a smaller model, has some obvious advantages over the PM. To get a 4x4 in the same rough exterior length as an EXT a DIY gives up lots of interior “usable” space. 4” in width is the 1st issue (this would make an east/west bed length unusable or uncomfortable for me (69” long not 73” to 74” long in the PM). Then there is the price.🤑 Then there is the diesel.

If we really needed a 4x4 camper van I would have bought the Mercedes the 1st time around (FWD PM $40,000 vs 4x4 Sprinter $76,000 for the short 19’ model).

Now I love going to 4x4 places & I have a 4x4 Rubicon, 4x4 1/2 ton pickup, KTM 500EXC, & even a “4x4 plane” - I would love a 4x4 camper van, but not @ almost double the cost & smaller usable interior space.

The majority of our camping is very close to asphalt. A 4x4 would be nicer for snow. Our preference in winter (being Canadian) is to take the van south during non-Covid years & hit the sunshine vs ski hills.

There - Typical long winded answer from me 🙄

When someday comes around for your Van #2, I’m sure you will research what is out there & make a sound choice for yourself based upon your wants/needs. Dinosaur fueled vans might be dinosaurs by then 🤷‍♂️ - then we will all need solar 😁.

Thanks for your interest @ShaunB - Happy Camping !!
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 · (Edited)
So I am considering Fridges for my hew build & Truck Fridge TF130 is @ the top of my list.

I’m open to other suggestions or info on the TF130 or other fridges you love / will recommend.

TIA


 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
No thoughts on a chest freezer instead of an upright? I know there are drawbacks to both, but we are kinda tired of bending over and having stuff fall out all the time. I think we will try a chest then the one thing we want will always be in the bottom instead of the back of the shelf.
Hi @Motor7

Regarding the fridge; We have thoughts of a chest fridge. We currently have an ARB 50Q in our 2018 van ( build photo );

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In that build, the fridge tucks under our sink. We like it & the ARB is very efficient. That fridge & ARB “slide” cost us $2,000 Can.

The majority of the time we access this fridge from outside the open slider. Grocery cart into fridge & fridge to outdoor cooking table. We do not need to step into the van to access the fridge.👍

So a chest fridge is “on our radar” & as the above ARB will be included in our 2018 van sale, we do have another identical ARB @ our cabin we could use in our new build.

I see pros & cons in both styles. Our new build will have the fridge in the same location accessible from the outside.

Thanks for your suggestion - I will ponder it longer with my Wife.

Our new build sequence will be (roughly);
1) Exterior; roof fan & CRL slider window
2) Insulation
3) Ceiling & Wall panels
4) Upper Cabinets (this sequence might change)
5) Bed Structure
6) Cabinets forward of the bed structure (bed is as far aft to the rear doors)

So we have time to sort out the fridge as long as I allow “space” for both styles, shapes & sizes.

Which is something I learned from my last build. Last time I designed to maximize space with “specific” equipment in mind. This time around I am designing or planning more of a modular concept if possible.

I have 4 or 5 basic modular spaces;
1) Queen width Bed @ rear doors (mechanical & storage under)
2) Toilet & “stepup” for bed height
3) Sink & Fridge Cabinet @ Passenger Slider
4) Cabinets on Driver’s Side
5) Extended Cab Floor @ Cab - We are getting Factory Swivel Seats

The Bed is pretty much set - tweaks in height & underneath configuration. From the bed forward the remaining 4 areas or “spaces” are though of by me as “modular”. I am going to attempt to design those spaces not for 1 piece of equipment like an exact Fridge; but for a variety of Fridges. To do this I have to research sizes & installs of many fridges not just the one I will be buying.

I got the time this time around, as we are waiting for our 2021 to be built 😳
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 · (Edited)
Battery Monitor:

So in my first build I purchased and installed a Victron BM 712 Smart. I love this battery monitor as it tells me what is going on with my house battery. Yes it can be done cheaper.

My idea is this although I have not yet fully cooked the idea. The solar charger Victron MPPT 100 / 50 Smart has a bluetooth sync to my iPhone or iPad. It will tell me "some stuff" about the battery side and "some stuff" about the solar side. With a quick research the BM 712 $280C and the MPPT 100 / 50 solar charger $385C are not too far off for me to only install the solar charger (even though I am not hooking up solar yet or ever - but it does give me the option).

I would not do both - one or the other. My question the DIYer Forum Members is what would you do in my situation and why?




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Screen Shots of me testing out the MPPT 100/50

Test Bench (not to @GaryBIS quality or standards of testing - more RV8R hackish excited to test out a new gadget kinda bench test “off the floor”). No magic smoke though 😁

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The iPhone screen shots;

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
The MPPT will only tell you battery voltage. The 'battery current' field is for current going to the battery from the charger, it can't measure current drain from the battery. We have our monitor and MPPT 'networked', but the MPPT still won't show you most data from the monitor (it does show the temperature probe).
I personally find the monitor far more useful, the data from the MPPT is more 'hey that's nice' type of data, since you get whatever the sun gives for input. The current draw and total Ah used seems vastly more useful, although once you get used to your setup you would get a pretty good idea of where it stands just from the battery voltage, assuming you don't have any huge draws ongoing.
Thanks for that @supermoocow

So "Panel" volts & amps and what the "Charger" is providing the battery in volts & amps.

Maybe not the 2 birds with 1 stone result I was looking for 😞

Appreciate the "real use" info on the MPPT. That is one of the great things about this Forum - usually someone has some experience with the "equipment"
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Hum, I agree the 712 is the cat's meow. I love mine. My son has the $15 amazon battery shunt / monitor on his van. It will show discharge current OR charge current, but not both and then battery voltage. But what I miss is the %full gauge and the fact the victron auto resets / calibrates itself as you use it. With his cheap monitor you are basically left to read battery voltage and determine %capacity remaining based on that.
Thanks @akarmy !!

"gotta have the good stuff in the panel"

I will probably buy a BM712 for the new build,,,
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
Insulation then ceiling and walls then 'furniture' is pretty standard house construction and the way I did it on my first 2 campers.

On the 3rd one after the windows and insulation I put the furniture in and then only covered the exposed portion of the ceiling and walls. That way I could remove a wall or ceiling panel for repairs, modifications or additions. Our finished floor only covers the exposed floor surface as well.

You may have to work on the camper stuff later, but it's also a motor vehicle that may need body or mechanical repairs as well.

You didn't mention when you were going to install the electrics and mechanicals. On the first 2 campers I did those before most of the furniture and it made it very difficult to make repairs, replacements or modifications later.

On the 3rd one I installed most of them after the furniture figuring that if I could install the with the furniture in place I would also be able to service or modify them later.

I know most people think 'toe kicks' under the cabinets don't belong in a camper but besides easing the stress on our aging backs, I ran as much of the wiring and plumbing in the toe kick. That way I can remove the bottom of the cabinets and any drawers and have complete access to the wires and water lines.

You only build it once, but you may have to service many times.
Thanks @tgregg !!

I hear ya on the serviceability note - very important. Van #1 was build so it could be taken apart down to the insulation which was glued into place in the walls with "spray foam". Van#2 will have the same ability but I am not sure if I will use rivnuts or another fastener into the van steel structure.

Regarding electrical and mechanical; Some wiring will go inside the van walls & ceiling before insulation. I have wheel well water tanks that get built in with the bed structure "PEX" forward to under the sink area. Under the sink will be allocated for an Isotherm type HWT, water pump, drain to u/chassis grey tank. I have to decide on the location of the house batteries & power center - I have a few spots I am thinking of. I will have a Propex HS2800 & not sure where I am sticking that yet. The toilet is self containing. I have 2 propane lockers near the rear doors behind the water tanks (copper under chassis run line - most likely). Interior fills for the fresh water tanks - just inside the rear doors. Basic large gauge charge wire to charge the batteries from the starter battery / alternator - run down the drivers side near the floor. My mechanical will be pretty basic and the electrical might be less than Van #1 build.

I am having a space under the bed that will be accessible from the living area. I will achieve this with either a roll top shutter or "bi-pass doors" - the bi-pass doors will probably be easier. Our current bed height 8" mattress has a top of mattress height from the floor at 33". I want to see if we can tweak that a bit higher, but I do not want to get carried away to attempt to gain under bed storage and loose what I think I nailed for the perfect height on our 1st build. it is a funny thing how a few inches ergonomically on something like a bed height can give a very different "feel" to an environment. Just like your "toe kicks" - they are in houses of a reason right !!

Being a "builder of things" for over 4 decades I find building stiff pretty easy - for me Nailing the Design is the tough part. I will try not to repeat mistakes I did with Van #1.

Thanks for your post !!
 
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