Ram Promaster Forum banner

1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We bought a 2015 Ram Promaster 136" gasser high roof back in October 2015. Our plan was for a cheap toy hauler to use to get to mountain bike and moto destinations.

We knew we didn't want a white van in our driveway, since we only really drive on weekends and didn't want a massive eyesore in our driveway. So after much hunting, we found this brown/gray granite crystal van. Price was good, $29k, with the back up camera, double passenger seat, partition, power mirrors, cruise control, U-Connect, etc.



Is this bad?


Our build is ending up being a little more difficult than we originally guessed. The 136 is small once you put two motorcycles and two mountain bikes inside! We often ride moto one day, MTB the next, so we've gotta find way to fit it all inside. We are NOT going to be living in this van, just doing weekend trips.

What are we working with?



We'd been considering a partition with a zig zag to get around the motos, but then we'd have to pull front wheels off the bikes. It's ridiculous to be pulling both wheels off both bikes when our van is this huge!

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I cut the floor out of 3/4" maple, and used porch paint on the rear most piece. We wanted something stiff and heavy, and the maple seems to be exactly that. What a hassle to cut with the jig saw though! I kept having little pieces un-peel, and didn't realize I could use a belt sander to help with fit. Doh! FYI, I have minimal woodworking skill.





For the middle piece, I just used a few layers of polyurethane on the maple since it won't be as exposed to the elements.

For the front, we really liked the grain of the maple, so we stained it and then covered it in ~4 or 5 coats of polyurethane. It's already scratched up a bit, but we're gonna run with it for now.



All three floor pieces are different colors, which is funny looking now, but our plan is to get some really nice vinyl flooring once our layout and walls are all finished. We'll need to decide where the tie down anchors will go, and what sort of shelves/floor mount accessories we'll do. Once that's sorted, we'll add the vinyl to the garage area.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I had a couple hours free, so I threw together a wheel well box with a hinged lid.







We figure we should build as we use it- we don't know exactly which features we want since this is our first toy hauler or van. With pick up trucks, you've got just about nothing in the bed. That silly little box at least got us thinking about what we'll want to do.

I got some RAAM audio mat for sound dampening.



Inside the slider:


I did mess up a couple spots:


One day, we might do a vent:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Harbor Freight has some decent wheel chocks for motos, we added two to the garage:


To date, the longest weekend has been doing the paneling inside. I hired a handyman on CL to help. It ended up being about 22 hours total in two days- I was sore after all that!

We'll be adding a window to the cabin wall, as well as to the slider:


I'm pretty happy with how the ceiling of the cabin came together:


For the cabin area, we used 1/4" maple for siding. For the garage, we used this weird Chinese "underlayment" from Home Depot. It was cheap.



This actually got me thinking- once this is a moto van, I won't be able to carry an 8' piece of material, especially not a 4x8 sheet of plywood or drywall. I think the plan will be to make some sort of portal that allows for material hauling. See- sometimes you learn what you need as you go!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The partition is coming along, but not without a few headaches. It's going to require a lot of caulking and spray foam to get the partition to be close to smell proof. But whatever, we'll get there! We're using 1/2 maple for the partition walls, and will be staining them to be close to matching the floor.



This shows our general partition layout pretty well:


Our plan is to move the stock double passenger seat to just in front of the partition. We'll source a new passenger seat, and add a swivel to that and the driver's seat. Total seating capacity will be 4, and as long as there is weight in the rear seat, with the buckle closed, the passenger airbag *should* still work.

The "step" on the partition will be part of a removable bed- or so we hope. We might be getting too ambitious, but we'd like to set up a bed that can be used easily in the cabin area, completely separate from the dirty, stinky garage. This tiny bed will only be 47" wide, but my wife and I are small people. The step in the partition is just high enough to clear the top of the double seat, and we should have enough space to sleep on our sides. If this doesn't work, then we'll go to a simple bed the back, which would be 54" wide, but would require removing motos and bikes. We'll see what's easier!

One aspect of our build that's borderline crazy is that we've been doing almost everything with Riv-nut inserts. I'd like to hire a friend to do the electrical, and we'll definitely need to pull panels and such down a few times for that. I bought 100x stainless M6 inserts, and have been bolting all the panels in. They can be easily removed. Bicycles and motorcycles have many M6 bolts, so if we're on a trip and need a spare bolt, we can just pull one from the van. Also, it fits great into the make-it-up-as-you-go plan that we're adopting. Using Rivnuts was a lot more work than simple self-tapping screws, but I think they'll pay off. Hopefully I don't need to go back and loc tite them all!

For our electrical, we want our Edgestar fridge, a small microwave, cabin/garage LED lights, and an electric kettle to be powered off a couple house batteries. I'd also like to replace the starting battery with a deep cycle as well. In total, 3 deep cycle batteries, with an isolator to protect the starter, seems like a good goal. No plans for solar, since we will be driving almost every day. Once we get the partition totally finished, we'll do a trip or two, and determine a battery location that makes sense given the spacial requirements.

Next up:

Source a new passenger seat, some swivels
Source windows for the rear cabin
Source electrical components
Add tie down hooks as needed in rear
Configure rack to hold mountain bikes securely next to motos
Hire local handy man to build more shelving in the rear
Add a couple shelves to the cabin

These vans are awesome, but a build out is a LOT of work!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
10,873 Posts
You seem to me making pretty good progress!

I,would suggest you use it a few times as is them you might see other needs that you want to adress also.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,845 Posts
The antifreeze level is normal. The stuff is some Organic Additive Technology stuff that costs a fortune and you can't mix with the pink or green stuff!!
Don't change the starter battery, it is a good AGM battery and the van is set to charge it properly. 2 Flooded acid or AGM 100 amp house batteries will work for the electrical you have- not a big deal. The bed is close to some comercial van's bed at about 48" You will be fine.
I like your ideas.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
770 Posts
Very cool utility work!

Fire extinguisher(s). Smoke detector(s).

Make the partition knee-wall nearest the slider a scuttle hatch pass through, include a plexiglass partition window to spy on things going bump in the night from either side?
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
10,873 Posts
RD is correct on the anti freeze. You can buy the OAT mix 50/50 mix at Walmart for about $12/ gal if I remember correctly
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all the positive comments guys! I'm thinking that logically, the seating situation has to get solved next. The window height and size will be somewhat determined by the seat positioning. Gotta keep reading about the various window options, but am leaning towards a full size with a giant slider for maximum ventilation.

The electrical is interesting. In both of our Sprinters at my old work, we had faulty aux battery systems that would always drain the starting battery. A local car audio place that I contacted, with hopes of contracting them to do a full electrical install for us, mentioned that they never add a deep cycle aux battery to a normal starting battery- they always switch both the starting battery and the aux to be of the same type, even with an isolator. Thinking back to our experiences at work, I kinda think those guys were onto something.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,845 Posts
I agree. Your starting battery is about 120 amp-hr AGM. That is an easy battery to buy. Sam's club has them in 6 volt for aout $185. I went to Flooded Acid for its longer life, better discharge characteristics and for less than half the money..... BUT I almost never use the starting battery/alternator to charge the house battery, my solar does that. I essentially have two seperate battery systems and I want it that way. I have a solenoid between them and a switch that I must throw to let it close when the van is running (it disconnects and connects automatically if the switch is on). Great system. I don't want some voltage sensing thingamajig interfering with my better judgement.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I got a bunch more stuff done a couple weeks ago, and the first two van trips went GREAT!

First up, the partition is together. I used 1/2" maple, stained with a couple coats of normal stain, and double coat of polyurethane on both sides. It clears the fender of my KTM 400XCW, and the moto chocks support the weight of the bikes fully. I used mostly 2x3 with a couple 2x4 studs, and it is entirely held in place with bolts. We might remove it when we do final weather stripping/sealing/caulking to separate cabin from garage, so I wanted it very modular. It will definitely be a big hassle to remove, but hey, it's possible!

There is a 54" wide, 16" tall "portal" hole that will allow for a 4x8 sheet of plywood/drywall/insulation/whatever. My friends with moto haulers will sometimes complain that their van is suddenly not as practical as it should be, so I wanted to do something to allow for future projects and utility. The portal is indeed a big compromise on security, but I'll be adding a puck lock to the back doors and that should be about as good as we'll need. Ha, famous last words!

Looking in from the back:


Porthole open:

FYI, I used piano hinge and a simple clasp from a household window, accessible from the cargo side, and need to add 2 more clasps to really get this big 'ol door to shut more solidly. I got some automotive weather stripping as well, and it's a tad too thick, preventing the door from closing fully. It's not bad though!

Front of the portal:


General cabin layout thus far:




I used some leftover 3/4" maple from the floor for the deck of the partition. It's all stained up and matches OK with the floor, not that anyone will notice since it's super tall, like 44" or something. It's just tall enough to clear the seat belt on the double passenger seat (to be mounted in the rear soon).





Everyone asks, "But, how are you going to sleep in it?" At first, we (my wife and I) didn't want to. We do mostly day trips, and my wife has expressed minimal interest in camping. But we figured with such a van, we should rig up some sort of bed! I made a couple brackets that interface with Angleiron, and with some 3/4" plywood, and a couple 2x4s for support, a bed fits just over the whole thing. It's 48" wide and 72" long. We're 5'3" and 5'8", so it fits us nicely. There's not a ton of room to roll over, but it's not bad.







For a mattress, I bought some 1" thick closed cell foam, then used some 2" thick memory foam from an old mattress topper we had. It all fits into the mattress topper's zippered "sock", and then rolls up. We still need to determine the best storage for the mattress, bed supports, and plywood when we're driving around. TBD.

The set up in the field:









We had a wonderful first anniversary weekend, complete with our first weekend in the van camping together- it was a total success! The bed was quite comfy, and the Edgestar fridge kept our wedding cake tasting perfect on our first anniversary. We're looking forwards to many more trips now!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,845 Posts
MsNomer, "Our bed is 48" wide. Plenty wide for whatever you want to do in it, including sleep.” Salacious comment? LOL
I would trash the Idea of an electric pot to heat get one of these butane stoves and an old coffee percolator (yard sale) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVK9WD..._m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=BMX04N7HQT0594DWAAXK
The two batteries and a simple solenoid that closes when the van starts is a proven, cheap way to charge the house batteries. Been done for years! https://www.amazon.com/PAC-PAC-80-8...1187&sr=1-6&keywords=Continuous+Duty+Solenoid

Your batteries will run the fridg. LED lights, sound system, video easily but avoid electric heating appliances. You’ll be fine w/o solar.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Quick updates:

Here's how my van has looked for the past two years: https://youtu.be/1FM282ZaKmo

We generally really liked this layout! However, with the growing family, it was time to upgrade to a new layout. Check out that video here: https://youtu.be/IIAJybVs8qE

I've only got the Sprinter three person bench installed, and we no longer have airbags, BUT our kid seat is now much more secure. The entire seat is easily removable thanks to the rad floor mount brackets.

A bunk behind the seat is next. I keep dreaming about how to make it modular, for either single width (kid nap space) or full sized for the whole family. Might be a few more months till that's done tough!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
So the van hasn't really changed much since this video from December:
. I added a driver side seat swivel and lowered pedestal, it was of low quality and a general disappointment (discount van/truck, iirc). But that's OK, life goes on!

With Covid, the amount of local overnighter trips here in the Cascades is rapidly increasing. And as such, the van is proving to be a great tool, but it needs some updates! Mostly for camping off-grid in the boondocks.

1. The van is SO LOUD inside on the highway! I'm planning on some wool insulation (with underlayment between that and the metal) in addition to the dynamat type stuff I installed 5 years ago. We need to weld up the 4 holes in the floor from the first build layout, and I'm thinking of horsestall mats under that maple floor. And I've got some snap together flooring from Home Depot here, might as well install that too. Would look nicer and should be sturdier than the maple.

2. The stock headlights are worthless. I'm considering an aimable, A-pillar spotlight (like a cop car) in addition to a simple, cheap LED light bar on the front.

3. Lighting for the camp site would be so nice. Maybe a roofrack with LED lights off all 4 sides would be a good solution, but seems excessive.

4. A Yeti Goal Zero type system to charge eMTB bikes on the go, as well as camera gear.

5. Better shelving and internal organization.

6. Kitchen cabinet near the bench seat, with a fold out table to the outdoors for outdoor cooking/eating.

7. Shelf/workspace above fridge.

8. Changing bed direction east/west to north/south. This would allow for shelving the whole length of the van, and would mean more space in the bed. Would be great to drop the bed 4" inches as well. Downside is that the bed would then hang over the bench seat when it's extended out.

These vans are such projects! Figuring I'll spend 15 nights a year in it, I'd rather lean towards too simple, but this winter it might be a month of van life down in the desert. Hmmm. An AirBNB would be pretty cheap!
 

·
Registered
2020 Promaster
Joined
·
4 Posts
Keep sending it, your videos are awesome as someone who has followed since the start of your channel. I never gave the van build video much thought until I joined the van life to keep mtb weekends flowing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks Cody- I appreciate that!!!

About to get the Promaster some needed upgrades- a Webasto heater, finally some exterior aux lighting, a solar generator style unit to accompany the starting battery, and finally- cabinets! A lot to build in a short amount of time...


Keep sending it, your videos are awesome as someone who has followed since the start of your channel. I never gave the van build video much thought until I joined the van life to keep mtb weekends flowing.

Please be aware that all newly registered members MUST make an introductory post in the Introductory Post Forum as per forum rules. Promasterforum.com Introduction Section

Please be aware until you do make the required introductory post any posts you make may be deleted as your introductory post helps other long time members when responding to you and also prevents spam.
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Top