Baby Shamu - 170 4x4

Airtime

Active member
Thanks for the additional detail. I'm going to copy your dinette setup with the Transit seat. Was planning on a side bench seat, but the dimensions on that transit seat make it work out really well. Maybe it was that apres-ski picture :cheers:
 
I do not think the added plumbing is an issue. Other forum members and even Mercedes mount their heaters in the rear of the van. As long as you have the auxiliary pump to assist in the movement of the coolant you should be fine.
When you hooked up your water heater to the coolant lines, what did you do to bleed the system / add additional coolant? I've got the tank mounted and I'm about to source some hoses for it. It looks like you just hooked your hoses directly to the threaded fittings on the tank?
 

sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
When you hooked up your water heater to the coolant lines, what did you do to bleed the system / add additional coolant? I've got the tank mounted and I'm about to source some hoses for it. It looks like you just hooked your hoses directly to the threaded fittings on the tank?
Your question wasn't directed at me, but since I recently added an Isotemp hot water tank I can say that I didn't have to do anything that special. I ran the engine for a couple minutes, revving the throttle several times. I had a helper watch the coolant level in the expansion tank and when the level suddenly dropped I stopped the motor and added more 50/50 coolant-water mix. It didn't run long enough to warm up or pressurize, just a minute or two.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
When you hooked up your water heater to the coolant lines, what did you do to bleed the system / add additional coolant? I've got the tank mounted and I'm about to source some hoses for it. It looks like you just hooked your hoses directly to the threaded fittings on the tank?
Yes, nothing special about the process. I did use some hose clamp pliers to pinch the lines shut before cutting my factory H88 loop. You can also employ wine or my favorite, bourbon corks, to stem any coolant leakage. I only lost about 8 ounces during the hookup and just topped off the coolant reservoir while idling the engine.

I clamped the 5/8” coolant hose directly to the threaded Isotemp fittings. You can also purchase tapered brass hose fittings if you prefer but the space was tight on my arrangement. I did experience a small coolant leak after 3 years of use. The hose on the threaded fittings had loosened slightly and had begun to drip but only on steep grades and hot days that pushed the coolant above 210F. Tightening the hose clamps stopped the leak, at least for another 3 years.

 
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Airtime

Active member
Another question on your rear seat. Did you consider mounting it on L-track? One that's strong enough for seat mounting, of course. Seems like that could somewhat decouple the seat position from the through-the-floor bolt position, dodging frame members etc. And allow for some adjustability.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
Another question on your rear seat. Did you consider mounting it on L-track? One that's strong enough for seat mounting, of course. Seems like that could somewhat decouple the seat position from the through-the-floor bolt position, dodging frame members etc. And allow for some adjustability.
That sounds like a good idea if you wanted to adjust the seat position or avoid frame members. You would need to inset the L-Track in the floor similar to my cargo floor. Which means you need to raise the floor 1/2” for vertical clearance. Not sure of the benefits of adjusting the seat.
 

VanLove

New member
@gltrimble Amazing build and detail in your thread. I am early in my build and this is giving me a ton of knowledge. I am finalizing my hot water system design and I am planning to go with an Isotemp + AC + engine coolant only setup. My 2020 170 Sprinter does not have the H55 or H88 options. I would like to go with a larger Isotemp like yours but I am concerned about winterizing the water lines under the van. I see you used heat trace, aluminum, and insultation on your water lines. I know some purests say not to have any water lines outside the van for a true 4 season van. Have you had any issues with the lines freezing? How did you heat/winterize the fittings of the Isotemp?
 

Airtime

Active member
That sounds like a good idea if you wanted to adjust the seat position or avoid frame members. You would need to inset the L-Track in the floor similar to my cargo floor. Which means you need to raise the floor 1/2” for vertical clearance. Not sure of the benefits of adjusting the seat.
I was thinking about making it so I could rotate the seat to be either on the side wall behind the driver seat or in front of the shower facing forward. L-track would make that doable, I think. Although on further reflection I think a square hole pattern just might enable that with the dimensions of this particular seat.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
I was thinking about making it so I could rotate the seat to be either on the side wall behind the driver seat or in front of the shower facing forward. L-track would make that doable, I think. Although on further reflection I think a square hole pattern just might enable that with the dimensions of this particular seat.
A local friend did something similar but he used a Metris seat. It can mount against the wall or facing forward like mine.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
@gltrimble Amazing build and detail in your thread. I am early in my build and this is giving me a ton of knowledge. I am finalizing my hot water system design and I am planning to go with an Isotemp + AC + engine coolant only setup. My 2020 170 Sprinter does not have the H55 or H88 options. I would like to go with a larger Isotemp like yours but I am concerned about winterizing the water lines under the van. I see you used heat trace, aluminum, and insultation on your water lines. I know some purests say not to have any water lines outside the van for a true 4 season van. Have you had any issues with the lines freezing? How did you heat/winterize the fittings of the Isotemp?
I have used my van in freezing conditions multiple times and for extended periods. My Isotemp water heater has an Inkbird temperature controller hooked to it. The Inkbird gives me a real time readout of the water temperature. It is also programmed to turn the water heater on in cold weather. I have it set to activate at 35F. It has never actually turned on because once hot it can maintain an above freezing temperature for multiple days. The water lines are more likely to freeze due to the small volume. The portions of the lines near the water heater stay warm. All the exterior lines are heated once the temperature reaches 45F. My only freezing issue to date was a low spot in the exterior drain line. Had to run a small amount of hot water down the drain to open it up.

I recommend using the smaller 15 liter Isotemp. It can provide up to 8 gallons of hot water. The disadvantage of a larger Isotemp is the time and energy it takes to heat up the larger volume of water when using electricity or a diesel heater.
 

Boathik

Future van builder
I have used my van in freezing conditions multiple times and for extended periods. My Isotemp water heater has an Inkbird temperature controller hooked to it. The Inkbird gives me a real time readout of the water temperature. It is also programmed to turn the water heater on in cold weather. I have it set to activate at 35F. It has never actually turned on because once hot it can maintain an above freezing temperature for multiple days. The water lines are more likely to freeze due to the small volume. The portions of the lines near the water heater stay warm. All the exterior lines are heated once the temperature reaches 45F. My only freezing issue to date was a low spot in the exterior drain line. Had to run a small amount of hot water down the drain to open it up.

I recommend using the smaller 15 liter Isotemp. It can provide up to 8 gallons of hot water. The disadvantage of a larger Isotemp is the time and energy it takes to heat up the larger volume of water when using electricity or a diesel heater.
@gltrimble,
Your posts have been very helpful! An Isotemp Slim 15 just arrived and I’m getting the other parts lined up.
Questions about the electric element and the heat tracing: since they are A/C devices, do you leave your inverter running all the time?
Where do your lines enter up into the interior?
Do you have a link for the bypass valve you used?
The manual doesn’t say anything about running the engine without water in the tank. Do you think that would cause any issues?
Thanks again.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
@gltrimble,
Your posts have been very helpful! An Isotemp Slim 15 just arrived and I’m getting the other parts lined up.
Questions about the electric element and the heat tracing: since they are A/C devices, do you leave your inverter running all the time?
Where do your lines enter up into the interior?
Do you have a link for the bypass valve you used?
The manual doesn’t say anything about running the engine without water in the tank. Do you think that would cause any issues?
Thanks again.
Yes, the inverter stays on overnight if freeze protection is required. I tested my heat tracing and although it is rated at 180 watts it only uses a fraction of that on average in sub-freezing weather. The water heater will stay warm over multiple freezing nights if it is hot from the start. I try to connect to shore power if possible when visiting ski resorts.

My water lines enter the van near my “C” pillar on the drivers side and also through the side of my step well where my water pump is located.

This is the heater valve:

I believe you can run hot coolant thru an empty Isotemp without issue. The manual does state not to operate the heating element without water.
 

Boathik

Future van builder
What relay did you use between the temp controller and the electric element. I’m having trouble locating one that triggers on 12v.
Thanks again.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
What relay did you use between the temp controller and the electric element. I’m having trouble locating one that triggers on 12v.
Thanks again.
For my water heater I used this dual DC/AC relay. One relay turns on the water heater via a 12 volt switch. The second relay activates the water heater using the temperature controller which is set for 35F. I am using a second dual relay and Inkbird temperature controllers to activate my pair of battery heaters.

 
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gltrimble

Well-known member
LOWER BED PANELS

I finally got around to building my lower bunk bed. A recent 3600 mile road trip required sleeping accommodations for three people for our stay at Big Bend National Park. My long term build plans included a second level bed that could easily be installed or stowed. I designed my rear cargo compartment lids with a 1/8” gap on the lip when closed. This was to accommodate the bed panels that would hang on the steel tubing frame of the cargo compartments.

The four bed panels were fabricated similar to my upper bed panels using 1” square x 0.125” wall aluminum tubing. I used 1” aluminum angle on the sides to hang off the cargo compartments. I thought my upper bed panels were over built and believed I could have used only two crossmembers per panel rather than three. For the lower panels I eliminated the middle crossmember and the center reinforcing span to minimize weight. I used 1/2” prefinished birch plywood for the tops since I had some left over. I believe 3/8” plywood would have sufficed.

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Each of the four bed panels measured 18.25” wide for a total of 73”. Adding a 1” gap at each end provided a bed length of 75” and almost 70” in width when including the cargo compartments. I attached the birch ply to the aluminum tubing using #10 Tee nuts and stainless taper head screws that were inset into the bottom of the tubing. I used a large C clamp to press the Tee nuts flush into the ply. Once the Tee nuts were all properly positioned I removed the ply panel and covered it with a layer of 1/8” Landau foam followed by a layer of Marble colored Marathon fabric from perfectfit.com.

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I added a thin layer of foam tape on the metal to metal interface between the cargo compartment and the aluminum angle. This kept the bed panels snug and rattle free. The height of the bed panels and cargo compartments was just high enough to allow my InstaCrate to slide under with about 1/2” clearance. The InstaCrates from Costco fold flat when empty.

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gltrimble

Well-known member
LOWER BED PANELS - Continued

The rear most bed panel overhung the cargo compartment by about four inches. I added “interlocks” between my bed panels similar to the upper bed. Each interlock consists of a small aluminum offset tab that locks the panels together preventing any vertical movement or tipping of the individual panels.

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The bed panels can be stowed by placing two panels vertically on each side and securing them using the wall mounted L Track. I incorporated a 4” wide fixed portion of the lid to hold the bed panels and still allow the cargo compartment lids to fully open.

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For added comfort in the lower bunk I added a gooseneck reading light, USB charging port, and a Scirocco fan. I mounted the fan to a piece of aluminum stock with a hand screw. The fan can be attached anywhere along any of the four wall mounted L Tracks. The fan plugs into the rear factory power port and the cord is long enough to reach the upper bunk.

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I have two Exped 4” thick and 31” wide inflatable beds for use on the lower bunk. This allows me to quickly deflate and stow the beds when not in use. I will likely install another grab handle on the bottom of the upper bed panels to assist those climbing in and out of the lower bunk. On a recent trip without the bikes I left the lower bed panels in place which provided a useful multi level storage option.
 
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jslove

New member
Thanks for the effort you’ve made to share in this community. A couple quick easy questions:

-I didn’t see info on the microwave in here. Certainly could have missed it. Caught on another thread that you have a Panasonic 1.2 unit. Any special venting recommendations or insight? I’ll also have a fridge below mine so will try to get micro with same width as fridge (isotherm 115).

-what hinges (are there also separate struts) did you use for upper cab doors?

Thanks and cheers,
Joel
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
-I didn’t see info on the microwave in here. Certainly could have missed it. Caught on another thread that you have a Panasonic 1.2 unit. Any special venting recommendations or insight? I’ll also have a fridge below mine so will try to get micro with same width as fridge (isotherm 115).

-what hinges (are there also separate struts) did you use for upper cab doors?
Joel,

The microwave is from my local Costco. Panasonic 1200 cooking watts and 1.2 ft3. It has worked out great but I have been looking for a commercial microwave with similar dimensions which would eliminate the rotating glass dish. My rotating glass dish needs to be wrapped in a towel to avoid rattling when driving. May look at making a plastic dish replacement. The commercial microwaves do not have any rotating dish but so far I cannot find one with flush door handle. And nobody makes a right hinged microwave.

No special venting for the microwave but in my pictures you will see a large horizontal vent above my microwave. This is primarily for the refrigerator and freezer. I have two 80mm fans that assist in the movement of air behind the fridge. Cooler air is drawn from below the fridge where I have a shallow drawer.

The cabinet hinges and struts are from Blum. A link to the struts is below. I cannot remember the specific Blum hinge. A search of their hinge catalog should answer your question. The hinge had the slow close feature and the base plate is a unique one as you can see in the picture.

Lynn


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blutow

New member
Really impressed with this build - Great layout and well engineered and executed.

A couple questions:

Fabricating steel vs. aluminum structures - You did the bed frame in aluminum, but I think all the other welded structures in steel. Was that for strength, cost, ease of fabrication, other reasons? I know aluminum can be really tough with a mig (have never tried it myself), but you got the bed frame looking pretty good and all the other stuff you did in steel was hidden if the welds are little ugly. I've been thinking about buying some aluminum wire and the right gas and giving it a shot. How was the learning curve on that?

I really like the water tank layout, great capacity and that location seems good for weight distribution vs. sitting in the back. It looks like the only fill option is gravity feed, right? Where does it vent to and is there an overflow of any kind? Any concerns with the tank ballooning/flexing enough to press out on the cabinet and cause problems (especially if it's overfilled)? It looks pretty tight in there.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
A couple questions:

Fabricating steel vs. aluminum structures - You did the bed frame in aluminum, but I think all the other welded structures in steel. Was that for strength, cost, ease of fabrication, other reasons? I know aluminum can be really tough with a mig (have never tried it myself), but you got the bed frame looking pretty good and all the other stuff you did in steel was hidden if the welds are little ugly. I've been thinking about buying some aluminum wire and the right gas and giving it a shot. How was the learning curve on that?

I really like the water tank layout, great capacity and that location seems good for weight distribution vs. sitting in the back. It looks like the only fill option is gravity feed, right? Where does it vent to and is there an overflow of any kind? Any concerns with the tank ballooning/flexing enough to press out on the cabinet and cause problems (especially if it's overfilled)? It looks pretty tight in there.
The bed panels were fabricated from aluminum to save a few pounds. I wanted to make the bed panels easy to move around so I made them out of aluminum and I made four panels instead of the usual three. Turns out I rarely move the panels and I probably overbuilt them. As mentioned earlier I could have reduced the number of aluminum spans and the thickness of the ply even more on the upper bed panels.

I used 1”x 0.125 “ wall aluminum tubing for the bed panels. For the steel tubing I used 0.065” wall tubing to achieve a similar strength. The weight savings of the aluminum is minimal, maybe a few pounds for each structure. Steel is also easier to work with including welding. My steel welds look much better than my aluminum welds. To weld aluminum with a MIG machine you will need a spool gun and a tank of Argon. My latest aluminum welds look better than my first. The welds are all structurally solid and grinder can make even the ugliest weld look good. MIG welding aluminum is easier than TIG but harder than steel. Just a Imagine welding MIG steel at twice the speed to get a feel. Aluminum MIG does take more finesse than steel. I don’t think the investment in the added equipment warrants using aluminum over steel.

The water tank is gravity fill. The 1/2” vent is incorporated into the Camco 1.5” fill spout. I have a small 10” long fill hose with a shutoff valve that I use on the end of a hose to fill the tank quickly. I turn the hose spigot on to full throttle while watching the LED tank capacity gauge. The tank is surrounded by a 3/4” ply coffin, 1/4” top and bottom, so no flexing or ballooning. With a capacity of 46 gallons I usually fill it to 70-80% full which will last me for a couple weeks. If I overfill the tank it will spray out the vent into my face, a good reminder to not overfill.
 
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