Van Update + Moab Trip

Continuing to build out van – usually in the week before a trip


Roll out awning + LED strip


Solar Panels – got lucky the brackets lined up with the roof rack cross bars

Still have the previous owners lumber/ladder ratchet straps, don’t know if those will ever be useful



Next on the list was heat. The van comes with an auxiliary heater from the factory, which heats the coolant. Then you can turn on the normal fan to extract heat from the heater core. This is mainly useful for 1. pre-heating the engine before starting in below zero. the aux heater can fire up easily to -40 and can warm the block and heat. 2. adding extra heat to the coolant, when the engine is on, when the van use used as a passenger bus and needs more heat than the diesel engine makes in the winter. The passenger bus models have a second heater core in the back, and when both are on full the engine never gets up to temp – so the aux turns on.

This would be possible to use a camper heater with 2 drawbacks. It is inefficient in heating because it first has to heat the block, before any heat comes in. Also it uses a lot of electricity, driving its internal fan, water pump, and the cabin fan. Power is also drawn from the starting battery which is no good. It is possible to rewire to house battery but that is a pain.

Much simpler to install a diesel fired furnace in the camper area. Best location I could find was in the garage on the drivers side. There is good access through the floor for the fresh air and exhaust pipes as well as fuel in. Due to the frame rails i couldn’t push it outboard any more.

This is the factory fuel pump, which connects to a second draw tube in the tank. It only goes down 2/3’s so you can’t drain the tank. I tee’d the fuel line here and ran the second fuel pump for the second, auxiliary heater.


Heater works great – on nights down to 20F it was barely above minimum to maintain 65 in the cabin.


Also to help keep the heat in and privacy I made these window covers. I had a neighbor sew them up with magnets in the perimeter so it sticks to the door frame.



To power all these gadgets I needed a battery. From the factory there was a 100 AH lead battery which was still in place. But it was worn out, could barely hold a charge and with lead you really only get 50% usable, so 50ah.

Fridge takes 1 amp, heater 2 amp, lights 1 amp, fan 1 amp etc etc and in this condition it could barely scrape by one night without dying.

I bought this valence lithium battery on ebay – with a bit of a gamble. They are used industrial cast-offs but I was thinking a half dead lithium is still miles better than a fully dead lead battery.

Lithium also has advantage of 100% usable capacity. With this installed it should be possible to run for several days easily without a solar recharge (if it is cloudy).

Becuase it is a big lithium battery I had to disconnect the alternator charging system. Without a controller in the middle, this battery could pull 150amps easily and burn up the alternator. Solar seems more than capable at topping it up however.

There is a computer service port on the battery, and using that i found it has only used 32 cycles, out of ~3000 so it is brand new.

had to cut and grind to get it to fit under the passenger seat  but it is in.


I am collaborating with a french engineer through google translate in order to reverse engineer the communication protocol to this battery.

Here is a snapshot, top is hex, middle is decimal, and bottom is the discovered data.

If possible I would like to read current voltage and state-of-charge to make my own battery monitor.

lithium are difficult to get a state of charge reading because the discharge curve is so flat, but reading from battery itself is most accurate.


here you can see the passenger seat now swivels to face the cabin which opens up some room.


small fold out gives a place to put the cutting board when making dinner



Van is a two seater right now but in the future we may want to bring friends along either for day trip or overnight. If there are no bikes in the back, a queen size inflatable can fit easily, and some heat can be directed there as well

for seating I ordered a split bench seat from a transit van. This will fit here on brackets that will allow easy install and remove as needed. It comes with seatbelts and factory hardware

you can also see the chest of drawers installed, fitting into the garage area. this was very lucky because of the dimensions, had to fit under bed platform and between seat and sink.

baby drawer catches keeps them from opening while driving


Here are some snaps from Moab Trip



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