This year my husband Joel and I decided to do something crazy and head out on a 2-year long road trip through Central and South America. We were super excited about this trip but we had one problem- no transportation.
We recently sold our converted Honda Element camper SUV in order to get something bigger for the long trip.
With a tiny budget and not a whole lot of money, we couldn’t afford to spend our entire savings on buying a decked-out $100k+ camper van so instead we decided to put our own brains and hands to work and do our own awesome DIY custom camper van conversion.
We found the perfect, slightly used Ram Promaster van for $20K and over the next 3 months converted the blank cargo van into a fully livable custom-built camper for just under $3k in conversion cost.
Our guide below covers exactly how we did our DIY camper conversion for anyone inspired to join the van life movement themselves on a low-cost budget.
To make this Promaster camper van conversion guide easier to follow, we divided our how-to guide into two parts. Part I will cover the conversion planning, layout design ideas, and all of the prep work we did that’s not necessarily visible but make everything work. Part II will cover the construction of the finished product and any extras we added to make our van life travel on the road more comfortable.
Promaster Campervan Conversion Guide – Part I:
1. Layout & Must Haves
2. Installing Windows & Fan
3. Wiring & Electrical
1. Layout & Must Haves
When we bought the Ram Promaster van it was an empty room on wheels so the first task of our van conversion process was to come up with some campervan conversion ideas.
During our research, we couldn’t find any low-cost Ram Promaster conversion kits so we had to create our own customized layout and plan from scratch. After all, one of our main goals was to keep our van conversion cost as low as possible and we also liked the idea to have the freedom to modify anything in our van to make it look amazing and unique instead of using a generic kit.
Some of our DIY van conversion must-have requirements were:
- Permanent bed with storage under the bed
- A kitchen area with a permanent cooking stove
- Sink with running water
- Sliding windows for light and air circulation
- A fan in the roof
- Space for our cat
- Swivel seat for the passenger
We had a basic idea that we wanted the kitchen to be in the front against the left wall and the bed in the back. Everything else we had to figure out as we built the van.
2. Installing Windows & Fan
Before we started with any interior work, the first task was to cut out holes in the van for the windows and fan. This was actually one of the scariest tasks to do because if something went wrong in this step, the van would be ruined. Sounds fun, right?
To install windows and a fan, you’ll need:
- As many windows as you’d like to add
- An RV roof fan
- Black butyl tape
- A jigsaw with a metal blade
- Paint to touch up the cut edges
We wanted to install two sliding windows in our campervan to allow air in, add better vision and circulate air for cooking. We wanted to add one window on each side, one on the sliding door, and one behind the driver’s seat.
The sliding windows we chose came in medium size with screens to protect against bugs at night. We bought the windows from a local RV surplus store instead of going with the windows that are made specifically for Ram Promaster by CR Lawrence. The RV surplus store windows cost only $30 each and came with screens and trim rings compared to the others which cost around $500 a piece.
Besides cutting two holes for the windows, we also cut a hole in the roof for the fan. We decided to install the fan towards the back of the van above the bed to get better circulation as the air comes through the sliding windows in the middle of the van and out the fan in the back.
We used a MaxxAir RV roof fan with multiple speeds and a temperature sensor that can be set to automatically turn on the fan if the van gets too hot.
We used a jigsaw to cut the hole for the fan and a hole puncher powered by compressed air to cut the window holes. The hole puncher left a smoother edge and fewer fine cuttings which tend to dig themselves into the paint and can cause tiny rust spots to appear.
When installing the windows and fan, we touched up every cut edge with white paint so it wouldn’t rust and used this black butyl tape to seal everything off from water leaks.
Cutting all three holes right after purchasing the van was intimidating at first, but after making the first cut it didn’t feel so scary after all.
3. Wiring & Electrical
We are not electrical engineers so at first wiring seemed pretty intimidating to take on, but it turned out to be a lot simpler than we thought.
To do the wiring part of the conversion you will need:
- 1 or 2 deep cycle batteries
- Battery isolator relay
- Fuse block
- 2 different colored rolls of 16 GA cable
- 2 different colored rolls of 12 GA cable
- 1 roll of 6 GA cable
- Pack of 12V switches from Amazon
- LED lights
- LED String lights (optional for decoration)
- Wire cutters/crimpers
- Wire connections
- 1-2 solar panels
- solar charge controller
- 10 gauge cable
The first step is to draw a diagram of your electrical system.
Our electrical system would include two deep-cycle Group 31 batteries (our “house” batteries) being charged by the car’s alternator while driving and a single solar panel on the roof. This system will easily power our LED lights, fridge, and water pump and have extra juice to charge our photography gear and computers.
Instead of installing an expensive pure sine wave inverter to power up our electronics, we just bought car chargers for the few things that aren’t already powered by a USB drive.
We used a battery isolator relay to charge the two house batteries from the car’s alternator while driving but disconnect them when the car is off, preventing us from discharging the main car battery and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. This system worked great on our Honda Element conversion as long as we turned on the car for at least 15 minutes a day.
The two house batteries were placed in the rear of the van between the rear wheel wells to distribute the weight to the back a bit. This location worked out great because we could easily place the fuse blocks and solar charge controller right above it and have easy access to them in case something goes wrong.
For the batteries, we used two deep-cycle group 31 batteries from Pepboys that seem to always be on sale for around $50 each. They are regular lead-acid batteries that could potentially release harmful gasses so they need to be in a sealed compartment. We created the sealed compartment using 3/4” plywood and high-density foam weatherstrip between the lid and the box, then used a ¾” hose vented to the outside right below the taillight.
We used LED lighting all throughout because they are really efficient and don’t get hot as regular lights do. For when we need bright lights we installed five really efficient and bright LED puck lights on the ceiling and when we want mood lighting we hung dimmable LED string lights all around the van. We used the 6th puck light under the bed in the rear storage compartment.
We also decided to add a solar panel on the roof of the van to help keep the batteries maintained on sunny days when we don’t do a lot of driving. Adding a solar panel is extremely easy and just needs two more components: a 12V solar panel and a $20 solar charge controller. We found a used 145-watt solar panel for practically nothing on Craigslist and installed it on the roof, then drilled a small hole in the roof to run the two wires in and sealed it with a self-leveling sealant made especially for RV and van roofs.
Before building up the interior of the Promaster van we wanted to install insulation to keep the van cooler in hot temperatures and warmer in cold temperatures.
Out of all the insulation types, we decided R-max polyiso rigid foam insulation board from Home Depot would be the best fit for our van conversion because:
- It’s mold proof so it doesn’t need a vapor seal
- it’s non-toxic so it doesn’t need to be completely sealed off from the living space
- it’s rigid so it won’t shift or settle down with vibration
- it has the highest insulation value per inch of thickness so we can maximize interior space
The only downside to rigid foam insulation is that it takes a while to cut and fix into every panel, but considering we don’t need to seal it off completely, it still takes less time than insulating with soft fiber insulation.
What you’ll need to do the insulation:
- three 1” R-Max polyiso rigid foam boards
- five ½” R-Max polyiso rigid foam boards
- 1 roll of aluminum duct tape
- 1 tube of foamboard adhesive
- a box cutter
We bought 1” and ½” insulation panels to use. We installed a double layer of 1” insulation on the bottom wall side panels and 1” insulation on the top back wall side panels to maximize space for sleeping at night.
We then used foamboard adhesive to stick the insulation onto the walls and flexible duct tape to seal around the edges.
For the space around the side windows, we cut out 1/2” insulation and covered it in white cloth. This gave the windows a really nice finished look that was much easier to make than paneling.
On the ceiling, we installed 1/2“ insulation during our conversion to maximize standing room for cooking and hanging out. Since we put a large solar panel and roof rack on top of the van that would act as a constant shade we didn’t need thicker insulation in the ceiling anyway.
We painted all the ceiling insulation panels white because we were planning to install roof slats and we didn’t want any colors to peek through the slats.
During the conversion’s insulation step, we only sealed off the large panels and didn’t bother with the smaller crevices. On our previous SUV camper conversion, we used a foam gap sealant to seal off all the small areas and ended up making a huge mess from the dripping sealant that was impossible to clean off. We found that sealing off every small area doesn’t add too much more insulation value if the big areas are sealed off properly already so we decided it was best to avoid all the hassle and mess.
With the windows, fan, electrical, and insulation in place, we were ready to seal it all up and start working on building up the van interior and giving our Promaster conversion a finished customized look.
In Part 2 of our DIY homemade van conversion process, we will go over how we did the camper van’s interior build and all the extras that we added on to our conversion to make our van life more comfortable.
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111 thoughts on “DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part I”
Where did you get your windows for 30$??? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t seem to find them.
We looked up “socal rv surplus store” on google and found a place called Walt’s RV in Corona, CA. I’m sure you can do a similar search wherever you live and find a similar place.
1275 Railroad St
Corona, CA 92882
It’s almost like an RV parts junkyard, they had thousands of windows to choose from that were old stock but never installed, in just about every style you can think of.
Another great place to look is eBay, but they are a little more expensive after shipping.
Super clean and simple, great stuff here! Thanks a bunch for sharing all of this. One question… how did you mount the 80/20 system up top? I’m doin this for sure. Did you drill into the roof or find a way to use the factory mounts?
THANKS!! Awesome job.
We used the factory mounting studs on the roof and created some diy mounts. For this, we used aluminum square tubing like these cut into 6 inch long pieces. The flange part pointed up and the roof rack was screwed onto the flange. On the bottom of the square tubing, we made oval holes where they drop over the factory mounting studs. Then, we used smaller square tubing like these that fit inside the larger tubing, cut them into 3 inch pieces, and cut a slit along the middle where it allows the mounting stud to slide through. Finally, we used a screw and nut that went through both parts of square tubing from the top, and as it was tightened, it put pressure on the mounting stud holding the whole thing firmly in place.
How/where did you add wall outlets to your electrical setup?
We don’t have any 120V wall outlets, just 12V car plugs and USB outlets. We used a small 400 watt inverter for the few times we needed to charge something off of a 120V wall outlet
I do have a couple of questions; one, what isolator did you use and here did you locate it? Also, it looks like you didn’t put in any roof insulation? I’m assuming this was to save the standing height? And, would you put insulation in if you were to redo this build?
We used this isolator which has worked out great. We put it under the van, right behind the van’s battery tray. We then used 6 gauge wiring to connect it all. Just make sure to add inline fuses to both sides of the cable in case there’s an issue anywhere along the wiring.
Never mind the insulation questions?! I was reading too quickly on this part of the build page. SO, would you go with thicker insulation for energy sake if you were doing this again?
The half inch of insulation on the ceiling has been good for us, but having the roof rack with wooden slats and a solar panel that partially block the sun makes a huge difference. If I didn’t mind losing some height and I had to choose either adding more insulation to the ceiling or the floor, I would choose the floor since you can feel the heat/cold when you walk on it. But overall our insulation works for us and wouldn’t change it.
The only thing I would do differently about the insulation on our van would be the windows. We put a ceramic tint on all the windows, including the windshield, but it’s not enough. I would make some window covers out of reflectix to place on every window.
Again, thank you for the information, Joel! Really impressed with your rack set up and the diy mounting plates, that seems very doable and easy enough to replicate.
Thank you for the advice on the isolator and insulation. I used that similar style of isolator on my first couple of campers, but it seems that they have fallen out of favor with the new style of smart isolators. I keep reading about the massive wire people are running, like 0/0 and 2/0, but you did it all with 6 gauge, glad that that is still feasible.
My son sews for a living, so I’ve been scheming with him already for some netting, so I’ll add window covers to his list!
Hi,Good job and thanks for your information.
Just wonder , what model of promaster you had converted ? 2500 or 3500 ? And what is the wheel base of your van?
It seems you don’t have any bathing facility in your van ?
We have the 1500, 136″ promaster.
We use this solar shower that we hang off the back of the roof rack and if we want privacy, we open both rear doors and hang a shower curtain in between with velcro.
As for a toilet, we’ve never had any issues finding bathrooms while on the road or camping, but sometimes when stealth camping in a city it can be more tricky. There are many products people we’ve met use, like a folding toilet or this product for women that can be used with doggie bags.
Is your conversion a high top or a low top 1500 136 WB?
We have the standard roof, not the high roof
I have a question about the roof fan. What temperature will that keep your van at on average? I have a dog and a cat and will still work 24 hour shifts so I need to be able to keep the van cooler for them while I’m in the station. Obviously I’ll still be able to come check on em a couple times a day but don’t want to leave them where it could get too hot.
It really depends on the weather outside, but with good insulation and our roof rack/solar panels the van wouldn’t get too much hotter than the outside temps. We did a 1.5 year trip with a cat in our van and she did fine but we always made sure to leave adequate ventilation. The roof fan we installed has a thermometer and the fan will kick on automatically if it starts to get too hot, but make sure to get a roof fan that can stay open in the rain too. We didn’t and that ended up being the biggest problem.
Hi 🙂 Building out the same van I was wondering what the dimensions of your bed are and if you are happy with the size?
Thanks a ton, Sascha
The bed is a full size bed, 74″ x 54″. I would say if you’re 5’10” or shorter, a full-size bed is perfect and will be an exact fit between the beams in the rear section of the Promaster. If you’re taller, I would lift the bed platform a couple more inches into the side panels where windows should be and not add much insulation on the sides – that way you can fit up to a queen size bed across. If you get the foam mattress we suggested from amazon, you can easily cut a few inches off the width if you don’t want it to be that wide
Thanks for your detailed answer. It’s much appreciated! That’s pretty much the dimensions I had in mind. I’m from Germany, an found a store that makes custom-sized mattresses for just a little more money than a buying a regular one. Pretty sweet 🙂 One more question: Since I pondered a long time with the roof height, are you happy with the low roof? Or doing it again would you have preferred to have a higher roof? I chose the low roof since it make for a cosier build in my opinion, and not being able to stand up tall wasn’t an issue for me. Looking forward to your reply.
The standard height version has been good for us and we’d pick it again, especially since it saved us a good amount of money. We only stand in it for half an hour a day at most while we’re cooking, the rest of the time we’re sitting. We’re a few inches taller than the ceiling but we just bend a tiny amount and it’s fine. The best part is that this van still fits in many garages and doesn’t hit too many low branches, even with the oversized tires and roof rack which add a few inches in height. Wanting a bigger rig is a slippery slope… before you know it you’ll be in a full-size RV!
An amazing job on promaster! Best information I have found! I just bought one exactly like yours! So on the vinyl flooring have you used glue to hold it down? if so what! Thanks for sharing all the details of your build out! I know it took a lot of time.
Thanks! We did not use glue, just snapped them together over the sound insulation and they were pretty hard to move because of the friction with the insulation. Afterwards, we placed the kitchen and bed setup over the floors so they’re definitely not moving. The only place where something is needed is by the sliding door – we used a 1 inch aluminum angle bar along the whole length of the sliding door and screwed it down over the floor and into the van’s floor. That way the floor doesn’t lift when you’re stepping in and out of the van.
Edit: we used laminated wood flooring, not vinyl. We used stick-on vinyl in our Element conversion and had to place wood underneath to glue it onto. They also sell vinyl that snaps into place, and is thick enough to not need wood underneath.
Please explain more about the install process for your battery vent. Pictures?
We drilled a 1″ hole near the very top of the side of the battery box, facing the rear doors. We also drilled a 1″ hole in the van’s sheetmetal right below the taillight, and this hole is seen from the outside if you look through the gap where the rear door hinge is. It’s pretty hard to capture in a camera because it’s inside the rear corner pillar. We then used 1″ clear tubing to connect the two holes and used sealant around the holes so it’s sealed pretty good. The gases created should exit out the tubing, into the area in the rear pillar right under the tailight, and exit the van through the hole by the rear hinges.
wow…very nice job, congratulations
Really nice looking van. I just bought a 2017 Promaster 1500 136″ Low Roof and was wondering how you did the roof platform. Did you attach the platform to a roof rack, or did you make your own rack?
Thanks! We made our own out of 80/20 tubing and made some mounts that slide in over the factory roof mount stubs. I’ll write something up about how to do this soon
WOW. Good to see a complete walk through on Do It Yourself custom van conversion. You are now expert to do any RV/Camper Maintenance as well.
Nice build! Wondering what your setup is for eating in the van as there appears to be no table or chairs.
We cover the kitchen set up more in Part II of the post. We decided not to create a permanent table or chairs to leave more open space in the van so it doesn’t feel too cluttered. We have a foldable camping table and two foldable chairs that we use when we’re hanging out in camp spots. We also installed a swivel base on the passenger seat so one of us will turn that chair and sit/eat in it while one of us sits on the bed.
Thank you Laura!
I’m looking to buy a Promaster and start a build, my question is have you ever regretted not getting a “high roof?” What were your thoughts on purchasing the standard van? Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the help!
We bought the standard roof version because we got a great deal on it (20k for a basically new van) and for us it was the best model since we planned on going places where height restrictions were common. It has worked out great for us since we can get into most car garages where the high-roof version wouldn’t fit, and since we’re only standing in the van for short periods while we cook or move around, the lower interior height hasn’t been a big issue.
However, if I was buying and converting a brand new van for use mostly in the US I would pick up a high-roof version. They’re about the same price if bought new and having a taller vehicle isn’t much of an issue in the US. Plus, it gives you more options for insulation and storage since space isn’t as big of an issue, and overall they have a better resale value.
And if you happen to find a good deal on a standard-roof version like we did, don’t sweat it, just hang out with people in older Econolines and you’ll feel so good about all your extra space
Did you put any info or videos on where and when to run your wiring? I am having a hard time deciding where exactly to pre run wiring.
No, the placement of the wiring is so individualized depending on where you’re placing your components: the batteries, fuse block, solar panels/controller, and all the things you plug in. We tried to run as much of the wiring as we could in the beams of the van and where we couldn’t we used a black wiring loom to protect them and group them together.
Amazing conversion, great website – and so easy to understand! Thank you!
Thank you, glad you found it useful!
Super informative!! Was wondering what you used for siding on your walls after putting in the hard foam insulation boards?
We didn’t use anything else, we just put cloth on one side of the foam and glued the foam to the wall. It gives it a nice, finished look, is super easy to install, and is as lightweight as it gets.
Do you happen to have any additional photos you could post or email me of the walls? That is the one part that I am struggling with. Also, what are the dimensions of your sliding door window you put in? Thank you!
Hey 🙂 Great conversion! But where can you get slide windows for 30$? I found the one you have for 300, did you forget a zero?
Thank you, hope you are travelling nicely!
We looked up “socal rv surplus store” on google and found a place called Walt’s RV:
1275 Railroad St
Corona, CA 92882
It’s almost like an RV parts junkyard, they had thousands of windows to choose from that were old stock but never installed, for super cheap.
Hope this helps!
What wheelbase did you get in the standard roof, 136?
Yea, our van is the 136′ which is the size most people choose, it’s a good compromise of interior space and driveability.
Also, does your van have dual sliding doors, one on both driver and passenger side? If not do you wish it did or are you glad you only have 1? Thanks
No, ours just has a single sliding door on the passenger side. We rented a van in Iceland that had sliding doors on both sides and it was nice to be able to open it to fill the kitchen or just get unobstructed views, but definitely not a must. I would imagine it would make the conversion a little more difficult too since creating a finished look around the frame of the sliding doors takes some time. I would say it’s not worth paying extra, but if it’s the same prices it’s a coin flip.
Amazing. You guys make the electrics look so easy. My boyfriend and I are thinking about converting a van into a campervan and electrics scare the heck out of me 🙂
It’s really not that hard once you understand how it works. Everything has a positive and a negative. The negatives all gets connected to the metal of the van, including the battery. The positives all get connected to the battery’s positive. The more power a component is going to draw, the bigger the wire it needs. Since it’s all low voltage and low amperage, you really don’t need to worry about things like getting electrocuted and you really can’t mess it up too bad. Just remember to test it all before you enclose it behind panels, otherwise you’ll have to tear it all down once you realize you accidentally crossed two wires
so cool, great job! we want to do something similar with a ProMaster City, much smaller of course but hopefully do-able 🙂
great idea on the window addition, where did you purchase a roof fan? also what did you use for the wood slat ceiling and how did you mount it?
The roof fan comes from Amazon, you can click on the link in the article and it’ll send you to the product on Amazon. For the ceiling we used 1/8″ wood paneling but if I were to do it again, I would use something thicker since it ended up warping with the constantly changing temperature and humidity. To mount it, we just screwed it into the ceiling cross bars on the van.
Hello, I am currently looking for a used ProMaster to convert. What year was yours and size? I am JUST starting so I am trying to get a gauge of what is a good deal. Any tips are appreciated. Insulation is big for me being I’ll be doing all weather. Are you happy (no mold or condensation issues) with your choices and would you do anything different in any area of your conversion?
Sorry, I got my answer about your van from the comments. Note to self, read the comments first. I love learning from many blogs, youtube the “would have or next time” ideas many people make after a year or so after the first conversions.
Hi Maggie, our Promaster is a 2017 136″ standard roof. We used hard foam insulation throughout and we didn’t have any issues with mold. We didn’t insulate the floors much and they would get cold but a small rug is all we needed on really cold days. Also, the windows allow a lot of heat and cold to come through so I would make insulated window covers. Overall, we were pretty happy with our conversion and wouldn’t change much if we were to do it again. Good luck!
I’m wanting to build a van and use it full time, in all weather. what did you guys do for heating? would it be a lot hard/ more complicated to install a heater/ water heater combo into the van?
We didn’t have a heater in our van so when the temperatures dropped, we used a thicker blanket and a rug on the floor. Webasto now makes a gasoline heater, the 2000 STC, which is really nice but it doesn’t heat water. The Webasto doesn’t seem very difficult to install since it’s easy to access the top of the fuel tank from right between the front seats. Good luck
I purchased a promaster and I don’t know where to make the positive connection to the battery. Seems to be a lot of junk under the battery cover. Where exactly did you make your positive cable connection on the vehicle battery? overall, you did a nice job with your descriptive information
wait. maybe I think I see it now. The positive terminal with the mega fuse. You did mention that in the writeup. thank you!
You got it, the big black fuse in the picture with the big red wire coming out of it is the connection I made.
Hi I’m looking into doing the wiring for my promaster with isolator.
What gauge wiring did you use from battery to fuse to isolator ? And from there to the battery. Also where did you make the connection on the promaster for the main car battery ? The picture seems like you go under the rug to the hood.
Is that correct ?
We used 6 ga wire to go from the main battery, which is just in front of the driver’s seat, to the isolator, then back to the house batteries. The top of the main battery has a plastic fuse/distribution block with a blank spot where you can use an inline fuse to hook up your wire. You can go with 4 ga if you’re worried about voltage drop but we never had any issues.
This is exactly what I’m looking for! The cost and weight saving ideas are so smart. Thank you for putting this info out there for the benefit of others!
just to be clear…that is not a reciprocating saw (thank god). it’s a jigsaw.
You’re right, shows how little we knew yet still managed to get this done!
You chose a low roof van…I am also looking at the 118wb as I’m pretty simple and a solo female. How’s the gas mileage?
The 118″ is a cool van, will definitely have enough room for a single person. We averaged anywhere from 14-20 mpg on our van depending on the terrain. If you end up going with the 118″ be sure to take out the small leaf spring in the rear suspension since your conversion will be way too light for the standard suspension. This will level out your van for when you sleep, make it way more comfortable over bumps, and will give you more suspension travel to go over uneven terrain without always lifting one of the tires up in the air. It only takes an hour or two, is free, and has no drawbacks
I am curious about the order you did the installations. We are prepping our Dodge Sprinter and aren’t whether we should do the insulation or the electrical first. Does this matter?
Either way will work. We ran some of the electrical before doing insulation, then realized we messed up or needed more wires and ran more electrical after the insulation. If I were to do it again maybe I would insulate first then run electrical.
curious about this aswell. i am looking to buy a van and take it on a winter trip here in a few months. i want to get the bare minimum done so i can get it out on the road before fully building it out. all i need is insulation power and ventilation. wondering if its safe to just insulate everything then go back in later and add electrical and roof ventilation or should i install the vent first before insulating. a bit crunched for time
Either way will work, don’t sweat it and do whatever is easiest
Thanks for sharing and the step-by-step guide. My questions are, what model is your Promaster? I just purchased a used Promaster 1500 with a low roof. Second, what is the size of the windows that you’ve installed? I am planning to build it as much as I could. I would be traveling this van with my 3 cats. Thank you so much.
We have the 136″ Promaster 1500, standard roof, so probably the same model you just bought. Our side windows are 36″ wide but I don’t remember the height. We traveled with our cat the entire time and she got used to the van life pretty quickly. Good luck!
Any thoughts on the need for 220 amp alternator vs. 180?
Thanks so much!
Either one will power everything up perfectly fine so stick with what you have. Most vans have a spot for second alternator and many RV manufacturers add a second unit for the house batteries but unless you’re running a huge battery bank, the stock alternator will do just fine.
Can I PLEASE have the name of the compressed air hole punch you used for the window hole?
I wish I had the name but it was a tool we acquired from family. A jigsaw works really well too though and has more uses beyond cutting sheet metal so I would stick to that.
I loved reading how you built this camper from the ground up. I saw that it was for sale on Facebook, is it still available?
Hey Sheridan, yes it is. Would you like me to email you the details?
Is your conversion still for sale? If so, cost? Location?
We decided not to currently sell it but potentially in the future.
GREAT INFO AND A GREAT JOB
What did you cover the walls with after installation?
Thanks for the guide.
Hi James! We used a variety of materials from wood pieces to cloth throughout the van.
I have the same van and I love what you did.. I am interested in how you made your own brackets on the roof to use the existing mounts. I read your post but still can’t envision how you did it. Do you know if there is any place that sells just the brackets? Thanks.
Hey Kelly, we made the brackets ourselves but the process is a bit difficult to explain in text because there are so many moving components involved. We have a couple extra brackets. If you’re interested please email me at email@example.com.
Just curious, what the height is inside, this is not the typical high-roof builds you see but still dooable. And I’m only 5′. Do you find it a challenge?
There are pros and cons for both. Tall versions have higher resale value but cost a lot more to buy. If you’re tall, a high roof would be more comfortable for the 1% of time you spend standing inside the van. The standard roof versions fit inside of drive-thrus, garages, parking structures, power lines (in other countries), and low-hanging branches where tall roof versions would not. The tall versions have more build options because you have more room to fit overhead cabinets, but that always makes them way more tippy when going over uneven terrain or driving with strong winds.
Thanks so much for doing this How-to instructional with pictures, very helpful!
My only question is after the build, from start to finish, what would be any major “redos” or “should of done instead” materials, approaches to the build, or anything that has been an unforeseeable problem?
Overall there was nothing major that was wrong or we would do differently. Throughout the course of living in the van we wished we had things differently, but then the circumstances would change (weather, daily driving distance, being in urban centers, etc) and we would change our mind and want other things.
Thanks so much for your detailed and articulate articles on your van conversion. I’ve been looking at the Promaster since they are the widest of the vans. It’s so helpful to read why you chose certain things. $20k for the van–that’s unusual, at least in the Pacific NW. Good deal!
Wow, so impressed by the transformation. Awesome job Laura and Joel! If you guys are looking for a long-term RV roof solution, just apply RV Roof Magic which provides outstanding characteristics not found in other coatings.
I don’t see any mention of heat or what kind of heating system or appliance you used in your build.
We don’t have a heater, just use blankets when it gets colder. Never had any issues even in subfreezing temps.
I was interested in doing this but wanted to install a small 110v mini split ac system. Do you have any ideas on that or how to setup a 30amp plug for campsites?
No, sorry. Most people we know took their AC out instead of putting one in. Installing the plug would be easy, you just drill a hole and put the plug in. From there, you would either do a 110V AC that plugs straight into the back of the plug or a 12/24VDC air conditioner that plugs into a 110VAC-12VDC converter between the AC and the plug. Going straight 110VAC is probably the way to go, much easier install and you’ll only be able to run it while plugged in but that’s probably a good thing, otherwise you have to install a lot of batteries to run an AC when not plugged into shore power.
Hi there, your finished conversion looks amazing and comfortable. In your Honda Element you had your water on top for showers. In your Ram is there water storage under the sink? Did you have an extendable hose or something like that you used for showers? Also, the wiring, batteries, running the lights, hooking up the fan and solar panel – ALL of that is completely new to me. Is there a basic beginner guide to these types of installations you could possibly point me to specific to van conversions? Thank you & continued happy trails to your future travels 🙂
In the Promaster we used two 7-gallong jugs in the back to supply the water and just ran water lines to the sink, like the type used for dishwashers or fridges in a home. For showers we used a solar shower bag which was much more convenient than the black solar shower we built on the Element. As for the electrical, you can start by getting any 12V battery and connecting one thing to it to see how it works. Positive to positive, negative to negative. Then add a fuse block in the middle of the positive wire to protect from fires. Then add another wire to the fuse block and connect something else, again running a positive wire from the fuse block to the thing, and a negative wire from the thing back to the battery. Rinse, repeat. It’s 12V so there’s very little danger of shock or anything. Keep the wires accessible so as you’re putting it all together, if something goes wrong, you can fix it later.
This is so amazingly helpful, thank you for the information. I’m just shocked….everywhere i look up electric they are using $1000 batteries and you bought $50 batteries at Pep Boys. Do you have any regrets about this? and as far as the cheaper batteries are they still holding up? Any maintance on these batteries?
Thanks so much for your help!
Almost 4 years later they’re still going strong. I topped them off once with fluid but they didn’t really need it. People spend a lot of unnecessary money on their builds to get the top stuff, it’s their choice. At one point in Central America I was convinced I needed new batteries because they kept depleting 100% but it ended up being that we weren’t driving enough and didn’t have enough solar to keep up with the demand at the time. Even after months of chronic over depleting, the batteries held strong once fully charged.
Complimenti, siete molto bravi; vorrei cimentarmi in qualcosa del genere; però se compro un furgone poi ho il problema della omologazione. Ho un’età avanzata e non mi sento di usare la procedura di acquistare un furgone in Germania ecc, ecc. Voi come avete risolto? Grazie . Sergio
What type of panels do you put over insulation?
There are plastic panels you can buy at Lowes or HD that will easily cover the insulation or use plywood, but we just covered the actual foam insulation with cloth and used spray adhesive to stick it on.
We are doing our van conversion. For the roof insulation what type of paint did you use. We love your conversion . thanks, Kathy
We painted the actual foam insulation boards with cheap white spray paint from HD
Hello! Wonderful build and I love your travel photos. Your idea of “paneling” that is made of polyiso covered with fabric seems like genius to me–saves so much space! But it looks like you might have done some wood trim for the big center pillar, and maybe longwise along the ceiling (?) Can you tell me if that is wood, what thickness and how you attached it? Thanks so much!
You’re right, those pieces are made of 3/8″ plywood and screwed in with long nails.
Keep up the great work! Thank you so much for sharing a great post. Seam-Tight is a great choice as a filler. Seam Tight effectively protects your roof against alligatoring and other damaging conditions with the SeamTight roof repair product.
Thank you so much for the details! It is much appreciated! We haven’t purchased our van yet but we are in the designing stages so that we get the correct van for us. Our van will just be used for camping not for full time living. Here is my question, I have a teenage daughter and I need to put in some sort of bunk bed over my bed for her. Which height van should we go with so that she can have some head room? I am also most nervous about electrical and would need help with organizing that. Also we live in Florida so having AC in our van is a must! So many things to think about, but we did the RV and it just got so complicated and expensive! This time we’re doing it on our own with a car payment rather than a 12 year never ending loan! Thanks again for your blog! I saved it to my Pinterest so I can reference it later!
Lots of fantastic information. Do you have a YouTube channel?
Thank you so much! We don’t have a YouTube channel, but we have an Instagram account @funlifecrisis. Cheers!