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2021 Transit 148 HR
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77 Posts
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.
 

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2018 136WB HR
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123 Posts
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:).
 

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2018 136WB HR
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123 Posts
one more thing. I also have CC wheel well water tank. I did not want to make any extra holes for the gauge and I bought KUS S5U Sender 1.5" NPT mount. You can just screw it to the big hole on your water tank. S5U Sender - 1.5" NPT Mount| Liquid Level Sender | KUS USA. KUS level gauge is CAD$25 :
.
 

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Van #2 2021 EXT
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4,824 Posts
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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Van #2 2021 EXT
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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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377 Posts
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.
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.
 

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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.
 

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Van #2 2021 EXT
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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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Van #2 2021 EXT
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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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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 😁
You really don’t want Propane; you can’t go into tunnels with them; even turned off...
 

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2021 3500 Extended
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684 Posts
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.
 

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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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