Ford Transit Order Guide for Camper Van Conversion

Ford Transit Order Guide for Camper Van Conversion

Ford-Transit-Order-Guide-2021-(Heading-1920px)

This Order Guide was updated for the 2021 Ford Transit.

The Ford Transit van is made to order, meaning it’s built according to the customer’s specifications. There are an overwhelming number of options and features from which to choose from, so it makes the ordering process quite stressful! In this Ford Transit order guide, we will go through the options/features/equipment that we would personally choose with the intention of doing a van conversion to a campervan.

Please keep in mind that some options are subjective and it’s impossible to define a complete package that would suits everyone! So we’ll try to focus on the essential stuff. Oh and one last thing: we’re not sponsored or affiliated with Ford; we made this guide on a voluntary basis. Hope this helps! 🙂

Van-Tour-Heading
Our Ford Transit converted to a home on wheels!

First things first, go to the Transit “Build & Price” tool on Ford.com. This will help you customize your own Transit and get a price estimate (the price is updated as options are added or changed) and prevent you from choosing combination of options that are not compatible together:

1- Configuration

Style

Crew Van
5-Passenger Seating

With a 3-seating second row, the Ford Transit Crew van is designed to carry 5 passengers and still has room for cargo. There are side airbags 

Ford-Transit-Crew-Van-Seating-Overview
Passenger Van
Up to 15-Passenger Seating

The passenger van is an interesting option if you want windows all-around and plan on reusing the included interior finish for your conversion.

Ford-Transit-Passenger-Van-Seating-Overview
OUR CHOICE
Cargo Van
Clean Slate

Start from a fully blank slate! Most flexible and cheapest option. The Transit cargo van is what most people choose for their conversion.

Ford-Transit-Cargo-Van-Overview

Our experience with the cargo van Transit

That’s what we used in 2016 to build our van, and that’s what we would use again if we had to start over today. With a clean slate, we’re in control and we can start right-away without having to disassemble anything first.

Airbags

The passenger and crew van comes standard with side-curtain airbags (full-length on the passenger van, up to the second row on the crew van). These will have to be disabled and removed, or leave undisturbed which can be challenging.

Ford Transit Passenger Van Airbags

Roof Height

Low Roof

With 56.9″ (4’9″) interior height, it’s not possible to stand up. So we personally don’t recommend going with the Transit low roof for a campervan conversion.

Ford-Transit-Low-Roof-Dimensions

Medium Roof

After adding insulation to the floor and the ceiling, the remaining interior height is around 68″ (5’8″), which is not really enough to be comfortable in our opinion. You might be able to stand up, but it’ll feel cramped in there.

Ford-Transit-Medium-Roof-Dimensions
OUR CHOICE

High Roof

After adding insulation and wood paneling, we’re left with 76″ (6’4″) interior height in our van. High roof means more space for storage, and also more comfort in the long run (we don’t feel cramped thanks to the clearance above our head). A must for full time vanlife in our opinion!

Ford-Transit-High-Roof-Dimensions

Our experience with the high roof Transit

We honestly don’t see any real downside with the high roof… Some people say it’s hard to drive in high wind conditions; sure it’s a bit more work than a car, but you get use to it and it’s really not that bad, so we don’t see it as a deal breaker. Because we live full time in our van, being able to stand up and still have headroom draw the line between van camping and van living.

Length

Regular

Because of the limited space, we wouldn’t recommend the regular length Transit for a van conversion.

Ford Transit van Interior Cargo Dimensions (Crew Van, Cargo Van)-Regular

Long

Best suited for: 

Ford Transit van Interior Cargo Dimensions (Crew Van, Cargo Van)-Long
OUR CHOICE

Extended

Best suited for: 

Ford Transit van Interior Cargo Dimensions (Crew Van, Cargo Van)-Extended

Our experience with the extended length Transit

We built our van for full time vanlife, with all the amenities and for multiple sports, so the extended length Transit was a no brainer. Indeed, the high roof extended length Transit looks HUGE at first sight, but we quickly realized that the space fills up quickly, very quickly… We would definitely choose the extended length again if we had to start over!

F.A.Q.

Every decision is a compromise. Are you willing to compromise interior living/storage space just to make it easier to park? In our opinion, if you feel like you need the interior space, then get the extended length. Yes, it’s more difficult to park, but you’ll get use to it. And if you’re into the outdoors like us, you’ll spend most of your time in rural or semi-rural areas anyway. If the primary use for your van is dwelling in large urban areas, then in this case the extended length might not be ideal.

That overhang is definitely the weakest point of the extended length for off-roading; the rear bumper (or trailer hitch if you have one) will touch the ground in water bars (dips) or on steep departure angle. So if the primary use for your van conversion is off-roading and getting anywhere is very important for you, then consider the long length instead. On the other hand, if the primary use for your van is to get you to the trailhead to ride your bike (like us!), then you’ll be able to make it. Personally we wouldn’t want to compromise on interior space, so we don’t look back on the extended length. We see our van more like a very capable RV, not like a Jeep. 🙂

Engine

3.5L PFDi V6 Engine

Standard engine. Less high-tech features often means less potential for failures.

Ford 3_5L PFDi Engine
OUR CHOICE
3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine

More power, more fun. The EcoBoost has been around for a while by now, people LOVE it. Turbo engines perform better at higher altitudes than naturally aspirated engines. It’s a good option for the re-sale value of your van.

Ford 3_5L EcoBoost Engine

Our experience with the... 3.7L V6 engine

Until 2020, the 3.7L V6 engine was the standard engine on the Transit. We went for it because we knew it would be the most reliable choice, and indeed we didn’t get a single issue with it so far (80,000 miles). It’s powerful enough to get us from point A to point B (we do a lot of mountain driving), but we wouldn’t mind the extra power of the EcoBoost… In fact, everyone we talk to absolutely love the EcoBoost, so we’d most likely get that next time!

Drive

RWD
Rear Wheel Drive

That was the only option from 2015 to 2019. This is what we personally have, please read “our experience” below to get our feedback.

OUR CHOICE
AWD
All Wheel Drive

For 2020, all wheel drive (AWD) was introduced on the Ford Transit van. The AWD system improves traction by instantly balancing the torque on the axle that needs it the most (front/rear). Note that the AWD van has the same ground clearance as the RWD (no lift kit included). If you’re into the market for a van with enhanced traction, but pushing the limits of where you can get off-road is not your thing, then AWD is the perfect match.

On the other hand, a “true” 4×4 system normally has the ability to lock the 4 wheels (all 4 wheels are turning simultaneously at all time) and also has low-range gear(s). So if you’re an off-road enthusiast and enjoy taking your van as far as you can on rough terrain, then consider getting a 4×4 van with a lift kit. Keep in mind that a full campervan conversion (with all the amenities, etc.) is quite heavy and isn’t much fun to drive off road (think of the dishes rattling and all…).

Our experience with RWD

Since 2017, we’ve been lucky enough to spend most of our time chasing mountain biking trails and backcountry skiing zones throughout North America. This means a LOT of driving on the backroads, in summer AND in winter. We also use our van quite a lot as a mountain biking “shuttle” on steep logging roads here in British Columbia.

From our experience, a RWD van (with limited slip) is very capable, as long as there’s weight in the back (very important) and with appropriate tires (all-terrain tires or snow tires).

After 4 years driving from Mexico up to Alaska, in all kind of conditions (loose dirt, snow, ice), to access remote locations for mountain biking and backcountry skiing, our opinion is that AWD or 4×4 is NOT mandatory. We did just fine with the RWD and limited slip differential.

That being said, if you’re into the outdoors like we are, we would recommend AWD or 4×4 if your budget allows it. Even if we think it’s not mandatory, it’s a nice feature for sure. Indeed, to access some ski areas, AWD or chains (faroutride.com/thule-snow-chains-review) are sometimes required; installing snow chains in the cold/snow sucks, so we wouldn’t miss this. And even if we don’t get stuck (we actually got stuck venturing in the sand twice, and we confirm that the Maxtrax Recovery Board are a life saver!), having AWD would probably give us a little boost in confidence when we’re far out there.

To better grasp what we’re into and where we go with our van, check out our Tales From The Road and our Winter Vanlife Guide.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum total weight that a vehicle can handle safely, including the curb weight (empty vehicle), options, passengers, payload, fuel, etc. Driving a vehicle above its GVWR creates a potential safety hazard because the vehicle’s frame, suspension, brakes and tires are not designed for it. It is important to understand that aftermarket modifications (tires, suspension, etc.) do NOT increase the GVWR

During a van conversion, weight adds up surprisingly fast! We’d recommend choosing the highest GVWR payload package available with the Single Rear Wheel (SRW, to maximize interior space), which should be 9,500lb:

OUR CHOICE
GVWR configuration

Our Van GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)

The total final weight of our van comes up to 8,950lb. That includes the curb weight, the conversion, the passengers, fuel, propane, full fresh water tank, food, payload (bike gear, snowboard gear, etc.). More info here: faroutride.com/weight-summary

Rear Axle Ratio & Limited Slip Differential (LSD)

Axle Ratio

A higher axle ratio has a better mechanical advantage, and is therefore better suited for higher payloads and steep and sustained mountain driving (like mountain bike shuttling 😏). The downside is higher gas consumption on highways, because RPM are higher.

Limited Slip Differential (LSD)

The Limited Slip Differential (LSD) is a feature to increase traction. If a wheel slips, power is transferred to the other wheel (on the same axle) simultaneously. In other words, both wheels on the axle are working together. It is not an electronically controlled system (by sensors or such); it’s actually a mechanical device (clutch) on the differential. The LSD system cannot be turned off (which is fine). The LSD is an optional feature and we HIGHLY recommend it as it makes a HUGE difference! Here is a quick demo of the LSD in action that we did a while ago:

The LSD is offered both for the RWD and the AWD. Why the AWD? Aren’t all wheel already controlled by the AWD system? The AWD is an electronic system able to balance the torque between the front axle and the rear axle, but not between the left/right wheels. So adding the LSD option still has benefit with the AWD.

OUR CHOICE
Ford Transit Rear Axle Ratio Limited Slip
Allowable ratio varies with configuration (engine, etc.). The 3.73 option shown here is the available choice with the EcoBoost AWD.

Transmission

OUR CHOICE
Ford Transit Transmission 10-Speed SelectShift

The Transit now ships exclusively with the 10-Speed SelectShift transmission. This transmission is part of a joint-venture between Ford Motor Company and General Motors. More cool facts here:

autoinfluence.com/11-things-you-need-to-know-about-ford-gms-10-speed-transmission

2- Paint

Paint schemes for 2021:

Ford Transit 2021 Colors

Our experience with a Dark Color

BFGoodrich KO2 Tires on Ford Transit van
Our van in "Magnetic Grey" color.

It’s no secret that dark colors absorb more heat. On a hot sunny summer day, the exterior of our van gets so hot that it’s impossible to touch it for more than 1-2 seconds! The metal absorbs heat and then radiates inside the van. Insulation (Thinsulate) will slow down the heat transfer, but over a few hours some heat eventually finds its way inside (just like a beer cooler eventually gets warmer; insulation slows down the heat transfer, it doesn’t completely stop it!). Of course, the dark color plays in our favor in winter, but it’s easier to heat the van (Webasto/Espar Heater) than to cool it down (Maxxfan Installation, Mosquito Screens). On second thought, we will choose a lighter color on our next van.

3- Packages

The idea of the packages is to bundle features together to make the order process easier. Note that these features are all available individually under “Interior” and “Exterior” section; the packages do not add new extra features (except for the HD Tow Package below). In our opinion, packages actually make things more confusing. So we’ll skip this section and proceed to choose features individually.

OUR CHOICE

Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package

Includes:
• Tow/Haul Mode with Trailer Wiring Provisions
• 4/7 Pin Connector Assembly and Rear Jumper
• Relay system for backup/B+/Running Lights
• Frame Mounted Hitch Receiver

We personally like the Tow/Haul mode for urban driving in heavy traffic (with frequent and unplanned acceleration/deceleration), because the tow mode extends the shift points (the engine revs higher) and adds engine braking when decelerating. For mountain driving, we prefer the SelectShift (to manually select the gear, but that’s us; the normal mode works just fine too!) And also, the hitch receiver acts as a skid plate for the rear bumper.

Adventure Prep Package

The #Vanlife trend didn’t go unnoticed and Ford tried to create a big hype around the Adventure Prep Package. It’s worth mentioning that this package doesn’t add any extra features, it simply bundles a bunch of existing features like fog lamps, cruise control, dual AGM batteries, windows, etc… So we don’t recommend choosing this package and manually choose the options below instead; keep reading!

4- Exterior

Our goal here is to go through the options we think are essential (or useful) for a van conversion. We won’t list every single option available; we want to focus on what’s we think is not to be missed.

50/50 Hinged Rear Door

253-degree Opening

Standard rear doors only open up to 180°. The 50/50 Hinged Rear Door option allows the rear doors to open all the way up to the van body (253° as shown in the photo below). We highly recommend it, because doors hold better when fully opened (in incline or high wind) and it’s just more convenient to have them fully opened.

Ford Transit 50_50 Rear Cargo Door 253 Degree Opening

Short Arm Power Adjusting, Manual-Folding Heated Mirrors with Turn Signals

In our opinion, heated mirrors are a must for sub-freezing areas (the mirrors tend to fog and freeze a lot). And on a large vehicle like the Transit, we think the turn signals are an important safety feature.

Short Arm, Power Adjusting, Manual Folding, Heated Mirrors Ford Transit

AGM Batteries - Dual

You’ll most likely spend some time using the radio when parked. Or you might want to connect loads to the auxiliary switches (e.g. Air Lift Suspension Kit, LED bar, etc.). Or using the van in winter is harsher on the batteries. At last and most importantly, the single battery often doesn’t come with CCP #2 (Customer Connection Point #2, located on the driver-side pedestal); the CCP#2 can handle up to 175A current and could be used to charge your auxiliary battery bank (e.g. with a Battery-To-Battery charger: faroutride.com/b2b-review).

Ford Transit Driver Side Swivel Installation (23)

Extended Range Fuel Tank

31 gallons instead of 25 gallons. Not necessarily a “must have”, but it’s nice to know it’s available as an option.

Ford-Transit-Fuel-Tank-Extended-Range-31-Gallons

Keyless Entry Keypad

We love ours! We ordered our van with one keypad on the driver side, and later added another one on the passenger side.

Keypad-Keyless-Entry-Ford-Transit-(4)

Wheel Well Liners

The front wheel well liners are optional, adding them increase protection from debris and supposedly quiet the noise from the road (from what other have said).

Ford Transit Front Wheel Well Liners Optional

Windows – Fixed Glass, Rear-Door and Passenger-Side Cargo Door

We personally enjoy the factory window in the passenger-side cargo door. It’s nice to check out the view when camping, it helps with ventilation (note: the factory side cargo door window does not open anymore since 2020 or so), but most importantly, in some situations, it’s the only way to see the incoming traffic when turning left at a fork. Unfortunately, it comes as a package with the rear cargo door windows and we don’t think they are necessary. With the permanent bed platform and garage layout, we never use the rear windows; our insulated window covers are always on them… To sum it up, we would most likely order a Transit without windows and add one to the sliding door and in the bedroom (bunk window) ourselves.

Notable Mentions

5- Interior

Our goal here is to go through the options we think are essential (or useful) for a van conversion. We won’t list every single option available; we want to focus on what we think is not to be missed.

Factory or Aftermarket Swivel?

Factory

The benefits of ordering the factory swivel seats are no installation, and shorter base (better driving position). The factory swivels are not offset, meaning that to complete a 180° rotation, you need to play with the seat settings (fwd/rear) in order to clear the steering wheel, the center console and the door panel. The only option available with the swivel is the 4-way manual seat.

Important (deal breaker?): When the seats are swiveled and the key is in the ignition (e.g. listening to music), a safety alarm will ring continuously.

Aftermarket

We highly recommend the Scopema swivel; it’s the most popular option with a reason.  The Scopema swivel raises the seat by only 0.75in, doesn’t rattle or wobble, operates smoothly, and is slightly cheaper than factory swivels. See our Swivel Seat Side-by-Side Comparison. Going with an aftermarket swivel enables you to choose any seat option (e.g. 10-way powered and heater seats), and you won’t get the safety alarm sound. It shouldn’t take more than a couple hours to install both the driver-side (faroutride.com/driver-swivel-seat) and passenger-side swivels (faroutride.com/swivel-seat-installation), because it’s a simple bolt on procedure. Make sure to get the Push Down Manual Parking Brake option (code 90G) if you go aftermarket, so you don’t need to relocate the parking brake.

Auxiliary Fuse Panel with High Spec Interface Connector

The auxiliary fuse panel is used to connect accessories (such as Air Lift Kit, LED bar, etc.) to the dual AGM starter batteries. These accessories can then be switched ON/OFF with the auxiliary switches located on the dashboard.

Ford Transit Upfitter Auxiliary Switches

Dual Alternator?

Per BEMM, the standard (single) 250A alternator can handle up to 120 amps of continuous load. That’s more than enough to charge your electrical system from the alternator using a Battery-To-Battery charger (faroutride.com/b2b-review).

A dual alternator (2 x 250A) might be considered for electrical system with 400Ah and more of lithium battery bank (e.g. for people with 12V air conditioner, induction cooking, etc.).

Front Overhead Shelf

Can’t say no to extra storage!

Ford Transit Front Overhead Shelf

Large Center Console

Ford Transit Large Center Console

Powerpoint Outlet – 12V

Notable Mentions

6- Lead Time

Most of the time, dealers will mention about 8 weeks from order to delivery. This is a bit, actually a lot, optimistic. Typical lead time is around 3 or 4 months. And it’s even worst during the pandemic: some people have been waiting their Transit for about 8 months… So adjust your expectations and be patient!

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About us


NICE TO MEET YOU.

About-Us-Narrow

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017, we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers, and moved into our self-built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then, and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams, and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

13 thoughts on “Ford Transit Order Guide for Camper Van Conversion”

Heads up! As of Fall 2021, we are currently visiting our families back home and we might not be able to answer all comments due to time constrain. Thanks for understanding and see you on the road! -Isabelle and Antoine

  1. Hello!

    I just received my 2021 (extended high roof) transit and have started converting (largely based on your guides!). I have a question related to configuration that can’t be done when ordering in theory but instead needs to be done at a dealer.

    Question is: Did you consider getting your SBG programmed as a ‘camper’ (described in 2020 BEMM)? I’m trying to get this done by the dealership that I purchased my transit in order to save battery when I leave the doors open, but my salesperson has never heard of it.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  2. Hey guys,

    I am considering converting a my 2020 Ford Transit from a single starter battery to dual batteries as I want to increase the battery capacity. My thought is that the 2nd battery would be used for items we are adding to our cargo van like an Espar heater & Maxxair fan w/o impacting our ability to start the van (which uses the other starter battery). We are having a pop-top added this fall w/ some lights also which will also utilize this 2nd battery.

    Does this sound like a sound plan? Appreciate it.

    Reply
  3. First off, just WOW what an amazing resource! Thank you very much for putting this out there.

    In your recommended Ford build you chose the manual folding mirrors over the included power folding mirrors.
    I would like to have the blind spot detection, but that requires the power folding mirrors in place of your recommended manual folding mirrors. So I am curious, what was your reasoning for choosing the manual folding mirrors? Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Isabelle, Antoine,

    Thanks for sharing, your experience and how you have documented it, has inspired us. Our Transit, is ordered and we were confirmed that production of our order is now confirmed and scheduled for the first week of November, delivery December (keeping our fingers crossed). We’ll have to find a place to work indoors to start the conversion during winter. We might see you on the road in 2022!

    cheers,

    Reply
    • Hello Michel,

      I am following Isabelle and Antoine too and was trying to order a 2021 since end of May. I am been told ( here in Gatineau QC) that the orders for 2021 ended and I will need to wait for 2022’s. They also added that the production shouldn’t start before November. I am curious to hear when did you sign your order?

      Reply
  5. Very helpful and detailed. You explain a lot about the process and the vehicle options that are not really available on the Ford site.

    Reply
  6. Great Blog! Love you guys! My question is about diesel?

    Do you recommend?
    Do you discourage?

    The vehicle will be traveling in California. I heard the diesel in Mexico is different and can mess up your engine. Have you heard this?

    Reply
    • On new Transits, in U.S.A., the diesel is no longer an option. In case you’re considering used I’ve heard that repairs on the past diesels can be a painful experience. U.S. diesels have required ULSD ) Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel) since ~2006/8. Word is availability in Mexico is improving but you would be placing a lot of trust in the honesty of what a pump down there claims to be pumping. And, yes, the wrong fuel can cost you $$$$ in a newer diesel – think somewhere around the price of two new gas powered engines (not counting the tow back to the U.S. to have the repairs done. You didn’t want to be bitten twice, did you?)

      Reply

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