Camper Conversion – Electrickery

October 10th, 2018

I have to admit that this was the stage of the conversion that I was least looking forward to. I think you’re either the sort of person who understands electrical wizardry, or your’re not. What I found when doing my research, was that a lot of people would say ‘I have no knowledge or experience of electrics etc. etc.’ and then go on to build some super dooper electrical set-up, using parts that I’d never heard of, let alone knew what to do with them. For this reason, I knew that what I wanted, was some sort of ‘all in one’, plug and play system that was as easy and straight forward as possible to fit, otherwise, I was going to have to go down the expensive route of visiting an auto-electrician.

As with all things, no matter how much research you do, you will no doubt find exactly what you’re looking for, after you’ve bought the item that you intend to use. I went with the first ‘plug and play’ set up that I found, basically because it offered everything that I was looking for. Having done some more research afterwards, it seems that there are more modern, efficient options available, but again, what we’ve fitted is tried and tested, it was straight forward, even for me, to fit, and it works. The option that we went for was the Sargent EC155 power management system.

As mentioned previously, I have no knowledge of electrickery at all, and even getting this kit out of the box filled me with doubt. However, after studying the instructions and getting my brain in the right frame of mind, I found that as long as I concentrated, I could make sense of what was what and how to connect it. In fact, the sense of achievement when getting the first light to work, was fantastic and probably more satisfying than any other part of the build. Once again, planning is key, making sure you get the wiring runs in the best places and planning access to them for any future issues etc.

Interestingly, because of my doubts about my abilities where this is concerned, whenever we’ve had an electrical issue, I’ve assumed that it’s because of something that I’ve done, whereas in one case, it was because the electrical supply at the site had failed and in another case, it was because the dodgy continental hook-up lead that we had borrowed, was faulty. This, of course I discovered after lifting the flooring to check my connections….lesson learnt!

Anyway, I’m not going to go into detail about the electrical set-up, as there are hundreds of resources out there, far better at explaining 12 volt electrickery than I possibly could. Suffice to say, that whatever your ability, if you want to do it yourself, there will be a way and don’t be put off by people who claim they know nothing, then go on to build the Starship Enterprise from some old bits of circuit board, a battery and a pump….

Camper Conversion – Lining

October 10th, 2018

After we had spent some considerable time insulating the van, and fixing a moisture barrier in place, it was time to line it. As with all things when working on the van, what you originally plan, isn’t necessarily what you end up doing….! We had planned to ply-line, and then use thin furniture board to give us the finished look. However, after pricing up the final costs for the walls and ceiling, this method just wasn’t cost effective; we weren’t building a factory finish van, we were building a family friendly van. For this reason, we went with ply-lining, topped with vehicle lining carpet, and we were very pleased with the results. If you’ve never used this material before, you’ll find it very forgiving, and in many areas where we’d been worrying about achieving a nice finish, this material enabled us to get the effect that we wanted, with minimal stress/expense.

Due to the ‘square’ shape of our Ducato, we were able to ply line the sides and ceiling quite easily, whereas on other vans, the shape can present a few issues. As with all things van related, careful planning will help to ease your work, in this case, planning where to put your batons in relation to the size of the ply sheets.

As our van was intended to have 4 travel seats, we were obviously going to have to put some careful thinking into how we were going to achieve this. We definitely didn’t want ‘side facing; seats, as these aren’t suitable for travelling, even if they do have 3 point belts fitted; we wanted seats that were as near to factory safety as possible, if not stronger. After some inspiration from Kenny Biggins ‘Self Build Campervan Conversions’ book, we decided that the best way to get what we wanted, was to raise the floor behind the cab area and fit some ‘girders’ that the seats would be mounted upon. Sounds easy enough…… Well, this turned out to be one of the hardest parts of our build. We had to get the girders made up by a local fabricator, then we had to get some custom brackets made up, to attach the girders underneath the structural cross members, to give it the strength we wanted. Once these were in place, the seats could be mounted to the ‘girders’ with high-tensile bolts, and the floor built up around them. Phew…

One point worth mentioning here is don’t be put off by watching Youtube videos. Look at them as a source of ideas and inspiration; don’t think that the way they do things is the ‘correct’ way. What you’ll generally find, is that people who go to the trouble of setting up a ‘professional’ looking Youtube channel, will also have a fully equipped workshop, with every power tool imaginable, whereas you’ll be stuck with a hammer, screwdriver and a basic drill!

From the outset, we budgeted for a few, specific power tools, and then shopped around to get the best prices. In particular, I wanted a circular saw, for cutting the sheets of ply and batons, an ‘oscillating’ multi-tool, for various jobs, not least cutting awkward holes in the ply to fit the electrical components, a Jigsaw, for cutting more fussy shapes in the ply and an impact driver for helping get screws through the metal. These, in conjunction with some self-drilling screws proved particularly useful, and again, proves the worth of watching Youtube videos for ideas.

At the end of the fitting out, did these tools prove their worth? Yes, definitely. They saved a great deal of time and effort. Did we fall out with one of our neighbours because of the noise? Yes – but they’re miseries anyway…! Could we have done it without these tools? Yes, but it would have taken a lot longer, a lot more effort, and we were working to a deadline.

 

Camper Conversion – Insulation.

September 11th, 2018

Which insulation???!!!

You never really think too much about something as simple as insulation but when it comes to converting your van it’s so important to get it right. I’ve read and watched so many utube clips where the owner didn’t get it right or they cut corners which results in damp and wet getting in and potentially ruining the interior.

We decided to go with the Celotec insulation which is the most expensive option but seemed like the best option (for us). These come in solid sheets which can be simply cut to size. Any voids were filled with  wool insulation. At this stage it was a bit of a juggle because at the same time as insulating you also need to be thinking about your first fix of electrics and getting all of the wires in place.

 

There was a number of options that we looked at for securing the insulation to the van such as spray glue but we decided to go with self-adhesive aluminium insulation hangers (stick pins). It seemed to be a quick and simple solution. A word of advice at this stage – take care to cut your insulation to the shape of the moldings in the van; if there is any part of the board overlapping a ‘lip’ it will eventually fall off. Yes it will secure in place with the pins for a short while but it will eventually work its way loose and fall off. We ( ahem, the husband) spent quite some time re-shaping some of my boards and re-pinning them to the van!

Once the boards were in place (with the electrics first fix) we filled all of the voids with wool insulation until finally it was time to wrap the whole van with a double sided aluminium  foil insulation. This was secured in place using foil sticky tape.  So the idea is that every metal surface in the van is completely covered allowing no possibility of damp, moisture or cold air to get to the inside of the van.

 

I firmly believe that although it might not be the most exciting part of a van conversion, it is certainly one of the most important!

 

 

Van Conversion…..first things first!

July 17th, 2018

So after considerable research, deliberation and discussion we came up with a pretty good idea of what we wanted to get from our campervan.
Essentially we need it to fit a family of 4 ( 2 adults and 2 growing boys) and we wanted the least amount of ‘set up’ when we arrive at a campsite. Other ‘essentials’ include a loo, a small cooking area and plenty of storage. We don’t ever plan to wild camp so we’re not particularly worried about generating our own power etc.
With our wish list in place we set about planning the lay out. We realise at this stage that it will be a plan that continues to evolve as the build goes along but the basic layout will be:
Fixed bed at the rear with a double fixed bed above for the boys.
2 fixed seats with belts behind the drivers seat with a view to fitting swivel bases on the drivers seat and replacing the twin cab seat with a single and a swivel. This will the create then ‘dining area’.
Behind the boys seat will be a small bathroom and immediately behind that will be a floor to ceiling cupboard depending on space between the loo and the bed.
On the nearside of the van will be the kitchen area. Appliance essentials are a small fridge (for the beers) an oven and 2 hob gas burner.
We plan to fit as many overhead lockers as possible but these will come at a later stage in the build.

With the wish list and plan in place we set about stripping the van back to it’s bare metal. This was no quick job in itself as it was already fitted out with a high double bed, some electrics and carpet lining. At this stage it was very tempting to keep some parts thinking they would come in useful but in the end we decided to just go from scratch.

 

As you can see, there was quite a lot to strip out, but it was worth it, as we now have a blank canvas to work with.

Next step….insulation and windows!

How to fit a Hartal door lock……

July 16th, 2018

It may sound silly but you’d be surprised at how tricky it can sometimes be to fit the Hartal Door Lock when in fact it is quite straightforward (but only when you know how).

It’s simply a case of aligning the lock barrel to match the shape inside the handle; this is the part you’ll see once you remove the yellow button cap as detailed in the image below:

bty

And voila! This method can be applied when replacing all Hartal door locks.

Another little ‘titbit’ of information for you – When trying to establish if you need a ‘LH’ or ‘RH’ lock you will need to look at the caravan door whilst standing outside. If the hinges are located on the left side of the door you will require a ‘LH’ door lock and vice versa.
That’s all for today folks!

A Solution for Levelling Twin Axle Caravans

July 5th, 2018

We are regularly asked, in our shop, for the best way to level a twin-axle caravan. We currently offer the Kojack twin-axle levelling jack and also large levelling blocks, but now there is a very simple solution from Milenco.

If you already have a set of Milenco Quattro (or Triple) levelling blocks, you can now purchase a “Bridge“. Simply place the levellers back to back and the bridge will allow you to drive up and over the top to achieve desired lift.

Van Conversions…the way forward for affordable holidays?

June 21st, 2018

It seems there is a new emerging market on the caravan and camping scene….home built van conversions; providing you with the freedom to explore at an affordable price!

Over the years there have been more and more companies appearing on the internet who can provide a bespoke van conversion service. However, with all things, they don’t come cheap….

For those looking for a (usually) smaller motorhome, as opposed to the coachbuilt style, at an affordable price, then a van conversion might just be for you! One of our colleagues has recently decided to take the plunge and embark on their own conversion. They will write a blog of their self build van conversion journey, offering detailed information of the products used (which will be added to our website, if not already on there), the realistic costs and everything else you might want to know when thinking of embarking upon your own conversion. This will hopefully result in a purpose built van to suit your needs, all shiny new inside with considerable savings based on a factory or specialist converted van.

We’re led to believe (from reading on line) that anyone can do it if you are partial to a bit of DIY, happy to do lots of research (watch lots of youtube clips) and have the free time to spend on it. However, don’t feel that you have to stick to any particular style or layout; go as crazy as you like, or stick to a sensible family layout. The choice is yours…..

Check back on our blog for regular updates.

Below Pic.: The starting point, Max the Fiat Ducato, L4 H3 (In English, that’s extra long and extra high!).

Simple Water System

May 15th, 2018

We’ve recently had lots of people inquiring about setting up a water system in their trailer or camper conversion. We thought it might be a good idea to put together a list of parts needed to put together a very simple system providing cold water to one sink.

The simplest water system consists of a Water Container for both fresh and waste water, a submersible pump, a length of hose, a couple of jubilee clips, a microswitched tap and a leisure battery.

The submersible pump is capable of sucking water from the container and sending it direct to the tap – the closer the tank is to the tap will ensure a higher flow rate. Consideration should also be taken when choosing the location of the water tank taking care to think about conveniently refilling.

Please note this is just a simple system; there are many variations and more complex systems that can be used but all working on the same principle.

Happy converting!

Campervan Conversions – Fitting swivel bases.

March 20th, 2018

Ever had visions of owning your own campervan but never quite had enough money to fulfil the dream?
Well maybe those dreams can now become a reality by taking on a self build camper conversion. Scared? No need to be, all you need is a small selection of DIY skills and a bit of enthusiasm!

Over the coming weeks we will be adding different categories to our website for those wishing to embark on a self build campervan.

Products may not be added in the order that you wish to convert but more likely will depend on availability from our supplier, therefore the first category we have added are swivel bases.

If you have 2 front seats in your van (rather than a bench seat) then fitting seats is pretty straight forward. Simply unbolt the seat from the base, bolt the swivel plate onto the base, then bolt the seat and runners back onto the swivel plate. We find YouTube is often a great resource for help with installations.

Note that swivel bases are not universal therefore you will need to order the correct ones for your van and it’s year – we have listed all of the ones available with our supplier here.

It’s amazing the sense of achievement you’ll get from your own conversion….before you know it you’ll have the freedom to go where you want and take whatever you want with whoever you want!

Happy converting!

Campsite opening dates

March 19th, 2018

How can we be at the start of the season 2018 already?! If the weather is anything to go by then it certainly doesn’t fell like it but our busy shop and extremely busy website tells us that, yes we are truly into the new season again!

We’ve taken a quick look at the campsites locally to find out their exact dates of opening:

Seacroft Caravan and Motorhome clucbsite – Open now.
Woodhill Park – Caravan and Camping – Open 19th March.
Incleboro Fields Caravan and Motorhome Club Site – Open now.
Manor Farm Caravan and Camping Site – Opens Easter.
West Runton Camping & Caravanning Club – Open 29th March.
Laburnum Caravan Park – 21st March.
Beeston Regis Holiday Park – Open 19th March.

Fancy venturing a little further along the coast? Why not take a look at the Beautiful caravan site Sandy Hills based in Sea Palling.
It’s the perfect place; a stones throw from the beautiful sandy beach, shops, amusements and pub – what more could you want from a holiday?!

Happy holidays folks!