Some accessories and ventilation for the van

A bit of time has passed since our last post related to upgrades and converting the van.  We have pored over several forums and builds from other people. Before diving into the van project fully, we wanted to spend time living in it.  We have returned from our climbing trip to Potrero Chico and added a couple accessories and installed a roof fan. We are all smiles, great trip and our decision for van life cemented!

Portrero

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Accessories

We will separate accessories and upgrades. Generally accessories don’t require special tools or alter the van in a significant manner where upgrades may require altering some element of the vehicle. We purchased floor mats and hood deflector before the trip and were only able to install the mats prior to. We were still experiencing the grips of winter and couldn’t get the van clean or warm enough to install the deflector before leaving so it waited until our return and some warmer weather.

Husky Floor Mat

Cost: $109

Level of Difficulty: It doesn’t get much easier

Install time: The amount of time it takes you to open and box and put them in..

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Our van has vinyl flooring in the cockpit but more protection is needed to keep from ripping it up and one of the first purchases was a floor mat. We looked at all the options and decided on the Husky Floor liner that bridges the drivetrain hump.  The vinyl flooring of our van makes it difficult for mats to grip so having one joined in the middle keeps the mats together and limits them slipping around. This model also extends up into the foot well and towards the door to give protection on the foot rest areas on the drivers and passenger sides.

Review:

We installed these before our trip and they really protect the flooring. We exposed these liners to summer and winter use and they caught dirt and melting snow without issue. We do quite a bit outside and get in and out with various forms of footwear soiled with all forms of stuff so these work well for use and meet our needs.  They are not that expensive and fit the bill, not perfect but work.

Pros:

  • Heavy duty material that will hold up over time.
  • Mats are joined which helps keep them in place
  • Cover the foot well with curved sides to hold dirt and water in place

Cons:

  • Mats are joined which makes it difficult to removed one if it soiled, easier to clean in place
  • Mats do slide slightly on our vinyl floor and there isn’t anyway to secure to floor

Ford Hood Deflector

Cost $82

Level of Difficulty: Beginner, be patient to ensure alignment. An extra set of eyes could be beneficial.

Install time: About 30min.

Many of the roads in Colorado are treated with aggregate during the winter which flies up and causes problems.  Just about everyone drives around with several cracks and chips in the windshield of their vehicles.  Even if you don’t get some type of obvious damage to your windshield it will need to be replaced in a few years because it will resemble frosted glass with millions of pock marks, which is more pronounced at night. All this stuff hitting the windshield is also beating up the leading edge of your vehicle and exposing the metal underneath which leads to rusting of the hood. One popular way is with using a film or clear bra on the hood.  We considered using the film but passed because we didn’t like the look of a seam halfway up the hood and it really doesn’t offer a buffer from some of the larger pieces of rock thrown up on the roads.

This deflector is held on with 3M VHB tape attached to the back of the product so you don’t have to drill holes into the hood. Because you are depending on adhesive to secure it the temperature needs to be above 70 deg F and clean.  So wash the van with soap and water, try not to use a “wash n wax” product because the was can impair the adhesion. Once washed and dried use the alcohol preps, or mix of 50:50 isopropyl alcohol and water on a towel, to remove any greasy or waxy residue that may remain.

Washed, cleaned and ready for application

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Installation:

  1. Wash and clean surface
  2. Peel the film back on the corners of the tape, exposing small corners of the tape and then align with the hood
  3. Pull the tabs to expose the rest of the tape and apply pressure (3M recommends 15psi) to promote bonding to all the contact areas to adhere it to the hood.  Bonding strength is as follows, 50% in 20min, 90% after 24 and 100% after 72 hours.

After

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As you can see it fits nice and close to the van and doesn’t vibrate against rubber bumpers like some deflectors do.  We plan on blacking out the chrome.  The little Ford sticker didn’t last long and fell off shortly after installation.

Pros:

  • Ford product and designed to fit the vehicle
  • Fits close to hood and doesn’t vibrate or have a gap that collects pine needles or other debris that rolls down the hood
  • Added layer of protection from objects impacting the leading edge of hood
  • Doesn’t add to wind noise
  • No special tools to install
  • No drilling required

Cons:

  • It is flimsy plastic and can break if not supported during installation, as noted on Amazon review
  • Only one color available

Review

We have only had the deflector on for a short period of time so this would not be considered a long term review but it has remained in place and stood up to the rocks and road debris. The small Ford label on it fell off shortly after installation but you can’t tell it was even there.  We like the way it changes the styling of the van and protection it offers.  Will see how long it holds up but for now it was a worthwhile purchase and will help keep the hood protected and looking good.

Now it is time to move on to some real work, installing the ventilation fan.  But before we install it we had to pick one.  There are several different fans out there to choose from but the two top ones are the Fantastic and MaxxAir fans. We decided on the MaxxAir Maxxfan Deluxe 7500k fan for our van.  Both companies fans move 900+CFM and electric or manual lip opening, ceiling fan mode, remote control, thermostat and rain sensors.  We wanted the ability to operate the fan in the rain but we don’t like the look of a high rain cover poking up from the roof so MaxxAir was the choice for us. We also chose the smoke because it lets in more light than the white model.

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 4 hrs

Cost: $476 - For the supplies only, if you need some tools then add accordingly. You always need more tools.

Below is a chart for MaxxAir with the features of the various models. If you are active and spend time away from your vehicle, we recommend starting with models that include a rain sensor that will close the fan if you are away from the van.  Spending a few extra dollars for a rain sensor is cheaper than replacing water damaged interior or electronics from a flood of rain.

Fans

Now we picked the fan it was time to get the rest of the needed supplies and equipment. This is our step-by-step installation and products we used.  Walk down the isle at Home Depot or a RV shop and you will see all the different products to seal, glue, caulk or otherwise “waterproof” the holes you will put in your van. The products or methods you use in your installation may differ based on your local weather or views on how it should be done.

Ok, Let’s get our stuff together. It was this point I realized we only had the exterior roof adapter.  Today was the only day I had to get the fan installed before I had to get back to work and the weather changed.

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Not Pictured

  • Drill bits
  • Dremel or rotary tool or a flat file
  • Center punch
  • Hammer
  • Clamps
  • Caulk gun
  • Step Ladder
  • Blanket or something to protect the finish on the roof.

Step 1.. Prepare and homeschooling lessons

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We were able to cover several homeschooling topics during the fan installation.  We used all kinds of visuals to demonstrate fractions but it was using money as the example that brought the “Aha!” moment and fractions were better understood.

  • Reading tape measure
  • Adding and subtracting fractions
  • Converting fractions to decimals
  • Use of hand and power tools
  • Making mistakes and recovering
  • Safety and teamwork

Step 2

Decide where you are going to place your fan.  We are planning on a roof rack and a solar panel being mounted towards the rear so ours is placed forward on the roof.  This is also going to be in our kitchen area and we wanted to ventilate close to the cooking area. Find the centerline (CL) of your roof and measure 7” to either side. The fan requires a 14” opening.  Use the painters tape and sharpie to layout the square you will cut.

Measure 3 time and cut once, especially when you are cutting into a vehicle.  Body repairs can be costly.

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Step 3

Reconfirm your measurements, just one more time.  Place another piece of tape on the CL and use the center punch to put a small indent into the roof (this gives a place for the drill bit to start, if not the bit will wander on the surface and put a hole where do not want it) where you will drill a pilot hole to fit the blade of jig saw through and make a test cut along part of the CL.  OK.. Practice is over, now use the center punch in each corner and drill holes for the jig saw blade.  You want the drill bit to touch both lines of the corner but not extend outside of your lines.

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Step 4

The hole is cut! Remove the painters tape.  The edge will be pretty rough with a rough edge inside and out. You can use a file to take care of the edge but a dremel makes quick work of it. Any metal extending above or below could keep the adapter from fitting flush and getting a good seal. Test fit the fan mount to make sure your hole is properly sized. Then clean inside and out with alcohol to remove wax, grease and tape residue.

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Step 5

The cutting will leave exposed metal that will start to corrode and it needs to be refinished.  We laid some cardboard over the roof and covered to outside with a box to prevent overspray onto the finish off the roof and taped a bag over in interior to prevent overspray into the cabin.  Wait for primer to dry before applying the paint and then the paint to dry before the clear coat.

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Step 6, 7, 8

Clamp the adapter, fan mount, and the interior adaptor.  In our case we used wood and used a small hand plane to match the curve of the roof line, important to do to ensure all the surfaces stay flush and tight to prevent further leaks.  Drill the holes for your screws, remove and apply the butyl tape to the bottom of adaptor and then the underside of the fan mount.  The holes were drilled before drilling to prevent the drill bit from becoming clogged.  The tape will bend and can be applied in one piece, mating the ends together.  Clamp it all back together and fasten it all together.  Use a lug nut method of putting it all together, bring one fastener snug then the opposite side. Repeat all around the mount until securely fastened. The butyl tape is designed to spread out and create a seal between the surfaces. Trim off the excess with a plastic putty knife.

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Step 9

Load the self leveling sealant in your caulk gun and try to stay clean..  I ran a bead of the sealant at the adapter interface and then where the fan mount met the adaptor.  Then coated the screws and ensured coverage of all the surfaces from top to bottom.  This whole process used almost a whole tube of the sealant.  It is designed to flow and self level a bit.  It can get messy.. Yes, my legs are shaved.

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Step 10

Open the fan with the manual handle on the underside and place in opening.  There is a rubber gasket in the base mount that the fan will sit on and it will help if someone pushes down on the fan assembly and get the 4 mounting screws inserted. All mounted up, this is right after mounting and the sealant can take several hours to finish ‘leveling’.  Use a shop vac or air hose to get all the metal shavings out of the roof crevices.

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Step 11

Enjoy your beverage of choice and smile.  You did it!  My helpers lost interest so I am celebrating solo.

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Things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t rush and make sure you will have plenty of time.
  • The butyl tape and self leveling sealant have application temperatures and use in warmer temperatures will help with products performance.
  • The holes for the fan mount line up to the sides of the van.

This is only part of our ventilation plan.  Next will be to remove the inserts underneath the van by the spare tire and open the flooring up for ventilation.  All of this will help air circulation if we are kept inside due to weather and keep the electronics cool.  You will be nerve racked when you drill that first hole in the van roof.  Don’t worry, you can do this.

Winter has returned to Colorado so the spray insulation will have to wait for some warmer weather days.  It would be nice to have a warehouse or garage with heat and big door to work in. Maybe the next upgrade should be build another garage..