- INSPIRATION, IDEAS & KNOWLEDGE SHARING
- BUYING THE CONVERSION MATERIAL
- FORD TRANSIT RESOURCES
- Owner’s Manual
- BEMM (Body and Equipment Mounting Manual)
- BEMM Drawings
- BEMM Weights
- Standard and Optional Equipment
- Dimensions and Capacities
- Battery Location and Replacement
- Accessing Battery Power
- Guidance for Installing Aftermarket Transit Van Partitions / Bulkheads (Foam Blob Modification Awareness…)
- How to access the Upfitter Auxiliary Switches output
- Mercedes Sprinter Resources
INSPIRATION, IDEAS & KNOWLEDGE SHARING
No doubt, we spent more time researching than doing hands-on work. Starting from a blank canvas is exciting, but challenging. You will need help, either to get ideas or to gain technical knowledge. We listed below the resources we used during our project. Use them!
We worked very hard to bring you every details from our build process. See our Conversion Planning (Van Selection, Climate Control, Electrical System Design, Living) for all the ideas we considered or see our Build Journal for the actual build how-to’s, products list, illustrations, etc.
Discussion forums are an incredible source of knowledge. The downside is that the information is not organized. Use the search feature, bookmark, ask questions, answer questions. (did we mention to use the search feature?!)
- Anything and everything related to the Ford Transit
- Anything and everything related to the Mercedes Sprinter
- You guess it
- Expedition Portal Forum
- Community of adventure travelers, where the primary means of exploration is by 4wd and motorcycle
- Cheap RV living Forum
- Van Dwellers Community
Embrace Instagram. It is an infinite source of inspiration delivered in your pocket! Beware, it will keep you up at night. Below are the most notable source of inspiration:
- Mark’s Instagram skills are right-on. This is a perpetual brainstorm going on. A must-subscribed.
- Go Van is an online magazine about anything Van Life related. Only high-quality content.
- Inspiring people to live the VanLife.
- Your #1 source of Ford Transit inspiration!
- Yep, as the title says.
- And many others…
- Mightygoods.com produced a comprehensive graphic of the best vanlifers to follow, check it! https://mightygoods.com/vanlife
Commercial Van Conversion
All ideas are made from other ideas…
- Outside Vans
- Probably the more aesthetic and functional vans out-there for the adrenaline junky. And more expensive too. Great inspiration.
- Freedom Vans
- We only heard of them recently, but they seems to be everywhere now.
- Safari Condo
- A classic motorhome conversion from Québec, Canada.
- Road Trek
- Class B conversion from various chassis.
DIY Van Conversion
We’re no pioneer. We were greatly influenced by other DIY’ers that paved us the way:
- Orton Transit
- With his engineering background and is out-of-the-box thinking, Orton is a great source of inspiration. The site feature his electrical diagrams and drawings.
- Traipsing About
- Busted! We have to admit: most of our layout was inspired by this van. It’s a GREAT resource for any mountain biker… see for yourself.
- Build a Green RV
- There is a lot of good content in there. They did a really good job at documenting their build. A must see!
- Lot’s of great content, and more is being added everyday!
- This Ford Transit conversion is very well documented throughout with downloadable pdf, videos, etc.
- This couple from California are converting their Ford Transit for surfing adventures. Good write-up complemented with video.
- Parked in Paradise
- Kate and Ian moved full-time in their van in March 2017, check out their “How To Build A Van” guide!
Sensitive budget, beware! This is our dream van. We dream BIG.
We will leave this up to you. Head over manufacturer websites to find out about the prices or look on used market near you!
Of course, the cost depends on the components and equipment. We detailed and break-down all our cost in the Cost & Labor page. The page is updated as the project progress.
How Can Someone Affort This?
- First of all, thruth is, not everyone can afford a van and conversion like this. If you’re on a tight budget, you might want to check with the Vandwellers communities such as Reddit or Cheap RV living.
- How old are you? We never could have afford this in our twenties! As your career progress, you will get raise, finish paying your student loans, get smarter and save your money, etc. For now, try backpacking! This is how we discovered with we nomads 🙂
- Priorities. Make a list of what make you happy in life. Having a van is nice, but maybe you should spend all this money elsewhere? We decided a van would fit in our lifestyle, so we made the plunge! There is no such things as “spare change”; this van is a MASSIVE investment for us, but it aligns with our priorities so we’re willing to sacrifice other things for that.
- Once we committed to this project, we suddently started to save money much faster that we had never done before. Indeed, we were focused on this project and that made cutting on other good things in life easier: less restaurants, less beers, less travels, less mountain bike parts, less ski-lift tickets, less gas, less material belongings, etc. Sounds boring, but for a year our life revolved almost solely around converting the van (and our full-time jobs).
Boooooring! But if you don’t do your homework now, you will get screwed later.
This varies from place to place. In Quebec (Canada), were are licensed as a “normal” non-VR vehicle per the SAAQ.
Grab a chair and get ready to spend some time on the phone. Insurance company don’t really get what exactly we’re doing with our vans, and why. Converting a van is not a standard thing to do, and large companies are not kind of anything that is non-standard. That being said, we’re fully insured now. Here is what we did:
- We checked with the SAAQ (it is the crown corporation responsible for licensing drivers and vehicles in Quebec, Canada) to understand our local regulations. In our case, there is no inspection or approval required. Sweet! If you read this and your are from Quebec, give them a call anyway; your situation might be different than us(!?). The following page covers the regulation for Quebec (with more or less success. we had to call them):
- We then called our Insurance Company (La Personnelle) and explained our project. It was not that easy, but they were comprehensive and made it worked for us! When you call your insurance:
- Tell them that the modifications your are doing does not require an inspection or approval from the authorities (if that’s your situation).
- Tell them that the modifications your are doing are very similar to any commercial vans around (plumbers, electricians, etc); except than installing shelves for tools, you are installing shelves for clothes…
- Do not hide anything to them! If later you need to make a reclamation, they will make sure to hold it against you and will do everything they can to avoid a settlement.
- No success? Call a competitor…
- For now, our contract mentions that we are insured as a “caravan”. All the “permanent” conversion gear (Webasto, insulation, etc) is covered under the vehicle insurance; we had to pay an extra to get all of this covered. It’s not really expensive, since this is our 3rd occasional vehicle. All the “temporary” gear (bikes, clothes, etc) in the van is covered by our house insurance. If our situation change (long term travel, international travel), we will have re-negociate from scratch…
BUYING THE CONVERSION MATERIAL
Like it or not, you’re about to spend a lot of money! Make sure to take advantage of the credit card reward programs. We switched for a premium credit card with an annual fee during the year we converted the van. After we’re done, we will just cancel that credit card.
A local shop will help you choosing the right material that suits your needs and assist you with the warranties if you ever need it. If you are like us and prefer to make your own research and prefer having full control over your orders, check the next section…
- We probably bought 90% of our material on Amazon.com. The selection is HUGE, it’s easy to search, easy to manage your orders and the shipping is v-e-r-y fast (next day or so, depending on your location). Make sure to get a Prime Membership! It will get you free two-day shipping (same day on some zip codes) and other benefits such as unlimited movies/tv/music streaming. Not sure you want it? Try it free for 30 days. You can cancel anytime.
- eBay used to be an auction website, it is now very similar to Amazon.com. Selection, price and shipping is competitive with Amazon. Some items that are not available on Amazon are available en eBay, so it’s always worth checking.
It’s very frustrating to see that we pay much more for the same items in Canada than in the USA, and then we get screwed on shipping rate, time and border custom fees. Here is what we did:
- Get a credit card with no foreign currency transaction fees. Most credit card will charge about 2.5% fees on every transaction other than Canadian dollars; that will add up.
We got the Amazon.ca credit card: it has no foreign currency transaction fees and you get 2% cash-back reward when you buy on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. That’s 4.5% reward right-there (2% cash-back + 2.5% foreign fees)!
- update December 2017: Apparently the Amazon.ca card was discontinued, that’s a bummer. Since we’re doing long term travels in the USA, we got ourselves a true US based credit card. The only bank in Canada offering this is the RBC (because they have a branch in USA with the Bank of Georgia). Other banks (TD, etc.) are offering US dollar bank account, but they are based in Canada not in the US. To applied to the RBC, just show up at any RBC branch near you.
- Get a Kinek.com account. Kinek has many KinekPoint along the border where you can ship your items and pick them up for a small fee (generally about 5$ per package, but it varies with each KinekPoint). Check their “How to use Kinek” page, it’s really straightforward. Take advantage of the tax-exemption: if you spend 48 hours more in the USA, you’re allowed to import for 800$ CAD of goods (per person) without paying any taxes. For us, picking up material at Kinek means 48 hours of riding our mountain bikes and drinking world-class beer in Vermont. Sweet!
- Always compare Amazon.com VS Amazon.ca prices; it’s not always cheaper in the USA, especially with the exchange rate… do your homework!
No engineering background? No problem, we got you covered here!
Just kidding, there are just too many topics to cover… But here is FREE PRO TIP: Read the manual! For every appliance, no exception. You will learn on what sealant to use and which one is proscribed, what fuse size to install, what electrical wire is recommended, etc, etc. Manufacturers knows their products best and how to install them properly. Don’t try to out-smart them.
Using Existing Holes (Cross Nut)
We don’t like drilling holes in our van as it could:
- attract rust on bare edges
- spread metal chips all over (almost impossible to remove and will attract rust)
- interfere with your van electronics (!)
Cross Nut is the solution! We prepared a fully detailed article about Cross Nut (choosing the right size, installation tips, etc). Check our article here: faroutride.com/crossnut/
Make sure to use Silicone II (in lieu of Silicone I) on metal! Silicone I will release acid during the curing process and that will create rust. Silicone II is a “neutral-cure” silicone and will not release acid; it is therefore safe to use. We used GE Silicone II throughout our conversion (Buy on Amazon).
Squeaking will drive you crazy if you don’t plan ahead! This van is a home, but it’s not a house. There is more vibration and relative movement between surfaces than you think. Here is what we did to prevent squeaking:
- We used wood glue (Buy on Amazon) at every joint when building our wood furniture; even where we joined using pocket holes.
- We left gaps between adjacent surface where we could. Such as for the Floor and Platform Bed.
- Where it was not possible to leave a gap, we used a rubber “shim” to prevent squeaking. We used the MLV leftover we had from the floor installation.
- Foam is the worst! It WILL squeak if you don’t act against it. For example, we used foam board all around our fridge to improve it’s efficiency. It squeaked a LOT, until we inserted some Thinsulate (from our Thinsulate Installation) leftovers between the foam and any surrounding surfaces. There is always a solution!
- Wood against metal will produce squeaks. Leave a gap or insert a rubber shim in between.
Dissimilar metals in contact will produce galvanic corrosion (rust), because one will act as an anode and the other will act as a cathode. It’s real, don’t neglect it. I don’t want to get into details, Wikipedia does a great job at explaining it here. No, aluminum and steel are not compatible and should be kept apart… if it’s not possible, make sure that both metal are painted (unfortunately, paint don’t adhere well on aluminum without the proper process) and an adhesive protective film could be inserted between both metals as well. Below is a table of dissimilar materials:
FORD TRANSIT RESOURCES
PDF file (2016 Edition)
BEMM (Body and Equipment Mounting Manual)
PDF file (2016 Edition)
Source: Ford BEMM
- Ford Transit, Cargo, 130WB, Medium Roof (pdf)
- Ford Transit, Cargo, 148WB, Medium Roof (pdf)
- Ford Transit, Cargo, 148WB, High-Roof (pdf)
- Ford Transit, Cargo, 148WB Extended-Length, High-Roof (pdf)
- Ford Transit, Cargo, All Models, DWG Drawings (zip, requires a .dwg viewer such as the Autodesk 360 online viewer)
Source: Ford BEMM Drawings
PDF File (2015 Edition)
Source: Ford BEMM Weights
Standard and Optional Equipment
PDF File (2015 Edition)
Dimensions and Capacities
PDF File (2015 Edition)
Battery Location and Replacement
YouTube (Official Ford Video)
Accessing Battery Power
Q-226 (pdf) (Official Ford Bulletin)
Guidance for Installing Aftermarket Transit Van Partitions / Bulkheads (Foam Blob Modification Awareness…)
Q-240 (pdf). (Official Ford Bulletin)
How to access the Upfitter Auxiliary Switches output
Mercedes Sprinter Resources
There can be no conclusion. This is a never ending project.
Please use the “Reply” form at bottom of this page. We will answer each one of them, we promise!
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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!