There is no one way to building a camper van,
This is especially true with a “do it yourself” camper van build.
That can be both a good thing and a bad thing!
GOOD – you get to incorporate your idea’s into the build
BAD – you can get into a WHOLE lot of trouble with one tiny mistake!!!!
Let me tell you about all the STUPID MISTAKES I made when converting my first Mercedes sprinter into a camper.
This could get ugly!!!
Check out this short video on common mistakes people make when van to convert into a camper.
The camper conversion ideas here on the web are almost infinite,
Sometimes too much choice can be a bad thing!
Floor plans = Trial and error!
What I found most challenging with my first build was coming up with measurements.
When I found a great idea online which I wanted to incorporate into my build,
I was then met with the difficulty of trying to gauge measurements height, length and depth!
More often than not,
I got it very wrong and had to re-do or alter what I was doing completely,
this was a constant frustration.
I found it particularly challenging figuring out the bed height off the ground,
and the height and width of the bunk beds,
and what distance from the roof to keep them.
EVERYTHING was all trial and error.
And because of that,
Everything took 3 times the length it should have taken.
Here’s a short video on how I planned my seating area.
What would I have done differently with my van conversion?
Having lived in the van and traveled around with my family,
I now wish that I had raised the height of the main bed slightly,
Even two inches would do the trick!
This would give me a little more usable storage space underneath the bed.
As it stands
There is not enough clearance stack two plastic storage containers underneath the bed.
If I had achieved that it would have been optimal.
And as for the Kids bunks,
I could have made the larger bunk a bit wider,
my 10-year-old daughter sleeps there,
and while she fits fine for now there is no space available to accommodate any growth!
I am happy enough with how the smaller of the two bunks turned out.
You can’t think of everything…..
One problem which I did not foresee when planning the children’s beds,
showed its ugly head on one of our first trips!
The sleeping arrangements of the two older kids
(10 and 4) has them sleeping toe to toe in two bunks positioned in an L shape
running along the back and up the side of the van.
The toe to toe sleeping arrangement soon ended up with squabbles over touching toes!
Spontaneous spats could break out either at bedtime or first thing in the morning.
unless I completely rearrange the setup of the van,
there is no plausible remedy to my problem, at least not one that I can come up with!
Sometimes going cheap will cost you more in the long run!
Choose very carefully the things in life you go cheap on,
sometimes it is better to buy once and cry once.
I bought my van in the dark on a cold winter’s night…. Silly me!
I’m not trying to make excuses to defend my foolish decision
but here’s the truth!
In my defence…
I put myself under a tight time constraint
by a deadline imposed on myself by yours truly!
I had to buy a Sprinter, but very few were coming to market when i was on the lookout to purchase one.
I viewed a few, but the word “rough” would be an understatement.
The first van, in hindsight, would have probably been the better choice,
but I spooked myself away from it because of an oil leak.
what I now know to be a front end crankshaft oil seal leak,
A pretty common and minor problem.
It’s an easy fix, at least I hope so because the van I have now has sprung the same problem!
The second thing about that van which made me suspicious was,
when the van was started and idling andI pressed the accelerator
It would not rev out,
it would only rev to about 3 – 4000 rpm.
I now know that they are not supposed to rev out, I believe there is an electronic limiter built in.
something to do with diesel combustion emissions on cold start.
The other two vans I viewed were hard worked,
clapped out wrecks with too many problems to mention.
Here’s a typical problem you will find on a second hand van,
In this video I have to change the U bolt on the leaf springs in my Sprinter van.
You just have to expect these things!
And of course the wipers!
Finally I saw the perfect van on the internet,
But my story is an example of the mistakes to avoid when buying a motorhome!
from the few pictures that the seller posted,
it looked great.
It was well within my price-range,
close to where I live,
and it was a one owner van from new!
I was straight on it,
and arranged a viewing on that same dark evening.
On inspection (in the dark) it looked great,
it had a few marks here and there but not much rust as far as my quick inspection could reveal.
I bought it – And I was happy!
I had an unnatural smile from ear to ear driving it home.
To be fair it drove great and was mechanically well looked after.
Bright and early the next day, cup of tea in hand
I went out to take pride in my new toy.
To my absolute horror there were filled in rust holes peppered all over the lower section of the sides of the van
and painted over with what turned out to be white gloss paint applied with a brush!
I was gutted.
The repairs, filler, primer and paint, added an extra €500 not to mention the extra work and time put into it.
The end result is great though and I got a chance to color code the bumper and wing mirrors in the process.
You must find the silver lining of every cloud!
Is it a Mistake to Buy a Van with 239000 miles on the clock!
Well the short answer here is NO.
There is loads of evidence out there of sprinters clocking up well over 500000 miles trouble free with the help of general maintenance and regular servicing.
I have put thousands of miles up on mine since I got,
and I have no complaints.
I need to service it and replace the aforementioned crank oil seal, put a few tires on it soon before the next big trip!
Once you can confirm a decent previous service history,
there is no problem with buying a high mileage sprinter van pre-2006 models.
In the end, I did get my van finished! Check out the finished product!
So there it is…..
All my sins in one place!
There are a lot of mistakes you can make when tackling your first van conversion.
But is you persevere,
and do a little research,
you can avoid much of the major mistakes before you even start.