2004 T1N Mountain Bike Van Build


So to help out with picture hosting and being able to keep a running list of the van build write up I created a website/blog. If you guys want to check it out it will be a more complete write up of this van build. I used WIX, which was a free website host and it seems decent and looks like they will host pictures for free too. I am sure they get ad revenue from it though haha.

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Updated Pictures

So I went out and took some pictures of my van that I was missing from before.

This is how I did the rear view camera install on the top rear brake light. Yes that is electrical tape... Had to do that to keep the glare down at night when you tap the brakes.

View of the wiring routing:

I took some better pictures of my roof setup with the fan and solar panels. You can see how close the clearance is from the fan to the panel, but it works.

You can see the wiring routing. I used a Y-Adapter for the two different panels so I was running a 12v (not 24v) input and only had to run two wire through the roof.

Overall View of roof layout:

I used these sticky cable holders with zip ties to hold down the wiring and the roof and they have held (2-3 years) and work well.


Motorcycle Hitch Carrier

I am jumping ahead a bit since I just did this today, but wanted to post in case other people had done this or were wondering about this.

Motorcycle Hitch Carrier Link

I purchased a motorcycle hitch carrier that fits on the van for my 2006 BMW F650GS. I went with a cheaper one from Amazon, but so far it works well. Keep in mind though, it is cheap. Be very careful with assembly. I over-tightened one of the bolts and bent the metal. I imagine a more expensive one would be made of better metal, but there were not in my price range. Did 1.5 hour drive on the highway with it and no movement at all. Ill report back after I use it more, but so far so good. Only issue is the 500lbs limit. My BMW is under 400lbs so it works, but I wouldn't do much more than that. The van seemed to drive fine with it on the rear also.

I am doing a review of it here which I will update as time goes on and I see how it holds up.

Took a bit of trial and error to get the straps to hold the bike the way I wanted it to, but it worked:

Changing the strap so that it goes to the hitch receiver on the van made the motorcycle 1000 times more stable, didn't really liked how much movement there was before that.


Floor Removal and Repair

As my van was a passenger van for most of its life there was 3 bench seats and the remnants of a wheelchair lift. All of which had to be removed for the flooring and insulation to be installed and with that was going to come holes in the floor.

After all the brackets were removed and the bolts cut off (most were rusted) I was able to remove the wood flooring that was below the factory rubber mat:

After that I had a rusted floor with a bunch of holes in it:

So sanded down all the rust, which took a while. I am a fan of using an angle grinder with sanding and grinding discs (like these, pretty sure I was using 60-80 grit). Its really loud and makes a mess, but makes quick work of rust and burrs.

After all the rust is removed I used both my cheap Flux-Core welder (NOT RECOMMENDED, cheap welder made too many holes) with steel sheets cut with airline snips from a 18 gauge metal sheet. When the welder didn't work great I just epoxied the metal sheets over the holes to seal them using Loctite Epoxy, however I have since used PC7 Epoxy and like it much better, way less runny that Locktite.

Once all the rust was removed and holes epoxied I coated everything in POR-15. I cannot speak highly enough of POR-15, I know a lot of people on this forum recommended it and I am so glad I went with it. I have since used that on all rust issues. With that being said prep work is the most important aspect of using POR-15. Do not skimp on the metal prep, I bought this huge bottle of it and really glad I did. You can tell when it etches the metal.

Make sure you do research on the process as its multiple steps including washing the surface down with water (which is odd to me). I watched this video below to help out as he also uses an angle grinder in the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuDcvwEIkPI&t=292s

Once the POR-15 was dried I applied some rattletrap, but it was unneeded as I ended up spray foaming the vehicle anyways. But I figured it cant hurt, keep in mind its not cheap though.

Since I had exposed a lot of bare metal with the grinding and cutting of all the bolts and brackets that went through the floor it was really important to make sure the holes were sealed up on the bottom and the bare metal was treated/coated/painted. I used epoxy again to help seal up the holes and keep water out. Once that dried I used a rubberized under-body coating to cover up the bare metal and prevent future rust, in hindsight a primer would not have been a bad idea...
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Radio Upgrade and Install

Defiantly needed to replace my radio head unit with a new Bluetooth head unit. Mine did come with a aftermarket radio, but it was cycling on and off while the van was on and I made the false assumption that it was the radio's failure. Either way I upgraded to one that had a flip-up 7" screen and featured a Dual-Mirror feature, which was my main reason. I had hoped with this feature I could display an interact with mapping software on the touch screen display streamed from my cell phone.

The head unit I went with was a Dual DV737MB Flip out 7" multimedia head unit from Amazon. My stereo already had the aftermarket plastic plate that hold the single DIN radio in place, if you don't have one already you will need one.

I also purchased the Wi-Fi adapter for the Dual head unit in a hopes to stream my maps to my head unit (in hindsight I would not get this, was unable to get it working).

The installation was pretty straight forward, I found it much easier to fit in if you snapped out the top vent above the radio. I hardwired the radio in as the previous owner had deleted the wire harness and didn't leave me an option. If you go this way make sure to take your time and use heat shrink tubing.

Green heat shrink holding the wires together

I placed the wi-fi adapter behind the dash and ran it to the head unit permanently.

Back to my on/off while operating issue with my previous head unit... so this new head unit did it also. After much problem shooting it appeared that the factory ground wire had some resistance to ground. So running a new ground wire quickly fixed the issue (green wire in picture).

If anyone runs into an issue where the head unit turns on/off while the van is on and radio is on I would suggest checking the ground first.

So far the Dual radio has been great with no issues. The Bluetooth connects well. There are plenty options in terms of controlling sound/audio and it has the option to have a pre-amp out and sub out. I debated installing some "outdoor" speakers to run off this head unit and the pre-amp output would be helpful with that.

I had already replaced the front speakers with some 4" Alpines, which have been performing very well. I used butyl tape and trimmed that tabs to make them fit.

Alpine 4" vs Rockford Fosgate 4"


Rear Door and Roof Seam Rust Repair

Before I could head onto insulation I had to fix some rust issues on the door panels.

Sanded down and removed all the rust then POR-15'ed the rear door, inside and out (remember the outside needs to be coated to protect from UV)

I also had some issues along the rear door seal where it and rusted through. Its hard to see in this picture, but I punched out a bunch of rust and welded in a new metal lip and then used epoxy to seal it all up. Finished it all up with POR15.

As is an issue with many T1N Sprinters, my roof seal/seams were rusted. So after making sure all leaks were sealed (Self-Leveling Lap Sealer on the roof) I removed all the rust and POR15'ed the seams. Turned out real well.



Spray Foam Insulation

After weighing a bunch of options for insulation (wool vs thinsulate vs foam board vs spray foam) I decided to go with spray foam insulation. I know this is definitely not the cheapest and some other people have reported issues with it, but I went with it for a few reasons:

-Having windows reduced the space needed to insulate and made foam board harder to fit
-Reinforcement of body panels and reduction of rattle (making rattletrap redundant)
-Higher R-Value
-Wiring was done already

My van is black, so insulation was very important. It gets very hot in the summer and I am constantly working on ways to keep it cooler.

Equipment Needed:
-Spray Foam Tanks (Amazon Version - Home Depot Version, I went with the Home Depot Version because I was on a time crunch, but both are pretty similar)
-Protective Clothing/Equipment
-Garbage Bags/Grocery Bags
-Heater (if not hot out)
-Painters Tape/Plastic Painters Tarp

Advice I received after talking with contractors and others doing spray foam:

-PREP WORK!!! Tape up everything, this stuff gets on everything
-Temperature is very important, the warmer the better. The foam is expanding and it expands better in warmer temperature (I learned this the hard way when I had to go back and buy more)
-Cover up wire-ends, I used grocery bags to keep the spray foam off
-Wear protective equipment! (you need to be completely covered and have some sort of respirator)
-Have a garbage bag to shoot the foam into, sometimes its watery when not mixed right so use a garbage bag to "prime it"
-Change the tip of the gun if you stop for more than a minute or so

Because it was borderline temperature when I spray foamed my van I used a space heater on the tanks (recommended by my contractor).

I would also recommend spraying foam in all the small gaps before you start coating the bigger gaps.

Also keep in mind it does expand a lot, I know people have ran into issues when it has been sprayed in an area where there is no space to expand, that can cause damage. So make sure you apply it in a manor in which it can expand freely without pushing out metal or parts.

Notice how the electronics are held within grocery bags to keep the spray foam off

Because of the temp the spray foam didn't go as far as I wanted it to. I had to purchase a second set of tanks and apply a second coat the next day. They are not cheap, so make sure you do it when it is really warm out.

This is what it looks like when the spray foam is cured a few weeks later

I really like the spray foam. It was a mess, but so far its performed well. I used a drywall saw to trim up the foam when we installed the base floor (seen above). It seems to quiet the rattle down a lot. I had some prior roof rattle and that has stopped. I am pretty happy with it so far and it has been on for a year or so now with no issues.
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Glow Plug/Glow Plug Controller

My engine was throwing some check engine codes stating a few issues with the glow plugs and controller. Since I didn't know the history of them I decided to go ahead and replace them. The glow plug light was taking a while to turn on also so went ahead and did it. (Here is a good write up from Sprinter-Source)

-5 Glow Plugs
-Glow Plug Controller
Also you can get a kit with everything from Europarts-SD too.

-Hose Pliers
-10mm Deep Socket
-PB Blaster

After doing a lot of research I was really concerned with breaking off one of the spark plugs. To prevent that I used a lot of PB Blaster and performed the removal when the engine was warm.

So PB Blast them for a long time beforehand and then after warming up the engine use the hose pliers to remove the electrical connectors and then the 10mm deep socket (sometimes with a swivel adapter) to slowly remove the glow plugs. If it starts to get hard to turn them, tighten them in slightly, spray PB Blaster and try again. DO NOT FORCE THEM! It is a big problem if then snap off and get stuck in the head.

I got luck enough that they removed easily and no issues. Installing them is just the reverse. Do not over-tighten, they are only 10mm and a lot smaller than spark plugs.

The glow plug controller is an easy swap out behind the driver side headlight assembly, the headlight wire harness are a pain to remove so I just set the headlight aside while I performed the replacement.

I recommend while you are in there you check all connections for corrosion and remove any corrosion (I use this on a drill to remove corrosion) and then add dielectric grease to prevent future corrosion.


Windshield Fix

So getting ready last fall for my annual trip to Copper Harbor, MI (mountain biking) and I think 3-4 days before I head out my van takes a hit... literally. Bullet hole through the windshield and back window... I guess that is the downside of living in the city.

Side Note, here is a picture of my cheap rear view camera monitor that works great and super simple to install, next to the bullet hole:

So panicked I replace the rear window quickly ($100ish from a local shop that had it in stock, crazy lucky), but I did get to see the amount of rust in there that I needed to address at some point:

The windshield however was going to take longer, and after reading what people posted here about windshield replacement, I wanted to do it right and repair all the rust while I was in there. So I patched up the windshield with duct tape for my trip. To temporary tint the rear side window I used this static cling window tint, which worked great for a temporary fix. Ill re-tint the window later.

To replace the windshield I went to that same cheap corner window shop and asked them to just remove my windshield and tape it back on so I can drive home. Keep in mind, I knew they were going to use the tool that may cause paint damage, but it didn't matter to me since I was going to be repairing it all.

Tapped it up enough to drive under a mile and get ready for the repairs.

The rust was really visible around the windshield once the gasket/seal was removed:

Took the windshield out and the hood off and covered the rest of the van and dash as best I could. Then the next step was to remove old rust. I really like using an angle grinder with sanding discs. They are aggressive, but great at getting down to bare metal.

While I had the hood off I went after the rust underneath the hood also:

Once all the rust is removed I did the three steps (mentioned above... clean, prep, paint) and applied POR-15 to the metal. I buy these little cans since I don't use a ton in one go and I feel like they keep better that way.

Once it was all done it looked pretty good, but keep in mind that POR-15 is not UV resistant so you need to coat it with some UV resistant paint. I used a factory matched paint then a clear coat... all rattle can. Does not look professional haha, but more than good enough for me.

After the paint was dried I called up the window replacement guy (done under insurance) and they showed up and installed it in the alley. I think he was presently surprised that the windshield was already removed :)
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While I was working on the front end I had to fix the headlights. Mine were really old and hazed over. I had tried to fix them with those magic headlight restoration kits, but it didn't really work for me. I have heard success stories from other people, but just wasn't working out on me for these headlights.

So I gave in and replaced the whole assembly. Mine were the included fog lamp models, but due to all the other fog and auxiliary lights I have installed I just bought the non-fog lamp model. There are a few placed to get them too, I went with RockAuto, but you could get them through Amazon also. (RockAuto Headlight / Amazon Headlight)

For whatever reason, both rockauto and amazon have the Hella headlight assembly listed and show pictures of two different headlight assemblies for left and right. I cross referenced the numbers and they are the same assembly (the pictures are wrong...). So I ordered them and they were both the same. Good to go, just some glitch.

Here are the new and old headlights installed (still working on the windshield in this picture):

The new headlight make the van look so much newer and nicer. Not to mention how much brighter they are. Now the leveling feature works again as well.

In case you guys were wondering the Auxiliary lights I installed are halogen Hella 500s. They are the driving style beams and only really used for dark back trails, but very useful when they are. I personally am a fan of good halogens over the LEDs that are becoming so popular. The LEDs are very bright, but the cheap ones seem to be very unfocused. I am sure there are really good LEDs out there that use the correct lenses to be focused, but in my price range the halogen driving lights are better for what I want.

The lower LED fog lamps (similar to these) were installed by the previous owner and I have not found a suitable replacement for them... they do not provide much light. Open to suggestions there.
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3m clear vinyl wrap will keep those new lights clear for years, and can be replaced.
I like that idea, I feel like if I don't do something like that they will get foggy again. How does it look on the headlights? Can you tell its on there?

Like this stuff? https://amzn.to/2MdiE4J
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Engineer In Residence
If that keeps is from getting foggy/glossy again then I think it's worth a shot. $30 to save a $300 investment. I'll try it out and report back.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
I would double check 3Ms website to see if they have a recommendation for what product to use. There are other vendors, maybe a search for headlight protective film?


I would double check 3Ms website to see if they have a recommendation for what product to use. There are other vendors, maybe a search for headlight protective film?
Did a search and looked around and it looks like there are a few different companies that offer a headlight protective film, but 3M looks to be the best, may get this one and apply it. It looks like it applies just like window tint (soapy water, squeege, etc...).

Looks like a lot of people do this on painted surfaces too... might be something to think about for the hood.


Colorado Summer 2017 Trip

Kinda out of order, but I did another "test" road trip out to Colorado. Mainly for some mountain biking, but also to catch up with some friends out there.

Every time I travel out west I see more and more of these van conversions and so many people love to chat and ask about them. Biggest question I get is if mine is 4WD. I think this comes from the trail heads I drive to and most cars there seem to be 4WD. Mine however is only 2WD, but I am ok with that. I have not felt the need yet to have 4WD. The ground clearance is amazing on this van and have not had a traction issue yet. That may change, but for the time being the need for 4WD is so limited that I don't see the need for it. That applies to the Chicago winters too. The traction control is great on the van, you just have to stay within the vehicles limits in heavy snow conditions.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

Break for the pup:

Rest stop in Gunnison, CO to see friends:

Telluride, CO

Mines near Telluride, CO

and some mountain biking in Crested Butte, CO (derailur and hanger broke in the DH park in Telluride, but luckily I found a Sram X7 at a local store in Crested Butte and was able to do the repair in the parking lot using my bike rack as a work stand)

Van did well and this may be the trip were I decided I needed an indoor shower and a bed that was easy to set up.
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Dog in Van

As I travel alone with the pup I do have to leave her in the van sometimes and DH resort mountain biking is one of those times. I came up with a few rules for this, namely I would not rely on any one electrical device to keep her cool and it would have to be a safe temperature outside.

In this case above at Crested Butte, CO the outside temp was safe, however that does not mean the inside of a car is. To keep her cool my van is insulated, I run the MaxxFan at full blast, the front two windows are open with screens and I have a 12v Tornado Fan blowing in from the front windows. I also have good sun shades up in all windows on the sun side and I leave a cooler with ice in it open to the cabin. A 3 gallon water bowl is in the van for her also. All that and I still check on her ever other run. Its nerve racking leaving her in there... I couldn't imagine doing it if the outside temperature was unsafe.

The last thing I do is also really important. I have a sign up in the windows. Its a laminated sheet I had made a kinkos that basically reads the van is climate controlled, she has water, and lastly that barking is not a sign of distress. She gets protective of the van and I don't want someone to think that her barking at them to stay away from the van is a sign of distress and break out my windows. I think this is important because there are a lot of people concerned for dogs left in cars, and rightfully so.

At some point I would like to have a remote temp monitor, but until that days comes I will only ever leave here in there if the outside temp is safe.

You can see the window vents on the front two windows and the maxxfan up and running in this picture:
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