Baby Shamu - 170 4x4

gltrimble

Well-known member
LITHIUM BATTERY HEATING SYSTEM

Earlier in 2020 I installed four Lion Energy 105 ah lithium batteries, replacing my existing AGM batteries. The new lithium batteries were slightly smaller in size compared to the AGM batteries which provided enough space to wrap each pair of batteries with an 80 watt battery heater and 3/4” of mini-cell foam for insulation. I also installed two Victron Battery Sense Bluetooth temperature monitors. Now that snow season is approaching I needed to finish up the control system for my battery heaters. Each heating pad is rated for 80 watts but my test showed they consumed about 60 watts. They are 120 volt heaters. I chose a pair of Inkbird 12 volt temperature controllers to activate the battery heaters. I had also installed the Inkbird temperature sensors in the middle of each pair of batteries.

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I used a 4”square plastic electrical box from Home Depot to house the external components and connections of the heating system. The electrical box contained a dual DC-AC relay, one 120 volt lead/plug for each pair of batteries, one lead/plug for the 120 volt power supply, and two wires from each temperature controller.

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I installed the electrical box in the center of the van underside directly on a crossmember. A combination of VHB tape and a couple of sheet metal screws secured the box. The 120 volt power source was already present via my heat tracing I had previously installed to heat the external water lines. A simple $2 male/female 120 volt splitter from Home Depot allowed me to intercept the existing 120 volt plug. All of these 120 volt connections were conveniently tied to my “freeze protection” circuit.

I ran a total of eight 16 gage conductors from the underside of the van into the van through two new penetrations for the Inkbird controllers. Four wires for the pair of temperature sensors and four wires to activate the AC heating relay. I located the two Inkbird temperature controllers in a new aluminum panel I fabricated to replace a wood panel that accessed my inverter. The controllers would be at floor level but once they were programmed I would only need to access them during cold weather trips if at all. In cold weather, I typically turn my freeze protection circuit on which activates the battery heating, heat tracing of the external plumbing, and the water heater low temperature controller (also an Inkbird).

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initial testing of the system was achieved by setting the controller to 65F, above the battery temperature of 60F. With the amount of battery mass and the low wattage the battery heaters are slow to effect a change in the battery temperatures. It took 20 minutes or more before the batteries slowly warmed up. For now I programmed the controllers to activate at 40F with a 3 degree window before shutting off. I will do a real world test next month in the local mountains where it is already snowing periodically.

As mentioned earlier I also installed a pair of Victron Battery Sense temperature monitors. These sensors work using Bluetooth and are powered by the battery terminals. I can read the battery temperatures using the same Victron app for my battery monitor and my solar controller. The Battery Sense also communicates with the solar controller allowing it to shut down when the temperature falls below 41F.

 
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gltrimble

Well-known member
REVERSE LIGHTS

One thing I find uncomfortable is backing up my Sprinter in total darkness. Even in my own driveway I managed to hit a tree branch. The rare times the backup camera fails to work is in the absence of any light and even when it is working the image can be so dark it is useless. I prewired my van earlier this year for the addition of reverse lights and finally got around to adding them. I purchased a pair of small 1800 lumen LED lights from Amazon. I was able to fit the lights under my Van Compass rear step. Mounting them required me to custom fabricate a mounting bracket from some 3/16” aluminum bar stock. The aluminum bracket takes advantage of the existing Van Compass mounting bolts. The adjustable mounting brackets that came with the lights attach to the new aluminum brackets.

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I wired the lights so they can be activated one of three ways. This includes putting the van in reverse, a rear mounted switch, and an overhead switch above the driver. The reverse activation is via the OEM blue/white reverse wire which is tied to a simple 12 volt relay. This is the same blue/white wire I use to activate my reverse camera on my Pioneer head unit. The front mounted overhead switch also uses a relay. The rear mounted switch sends 12 volts directly to the lights.

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The lights are angled downward so as not to blind following drivers but still illuminate the surrounding area. The lights are bright enough now to make the 7” reverse camera screen useful. The rear mounted switch allows me to illuminate the ground when searching for my dropped keys or other small items.

In the process of installing the lights I chose to reorient the trailer plug. For those with bike racks you are familiar with the tight fit when trying to insert the locking hitch pin. I rotated the trailer plug 180 degrees (upside down) and added two new mounting holes that positioned the plug perpendicular to the hitch rather than angled. This creates more than enough room to fumble around with any lockable hitch pin. The Van Compass step also protects the trailer plug from the top.

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Dann

Member
SHOWER INSTALL

Is your Thetford Porta-Poti stored in the shower ?
If so, How do you keep it from moving around? Do you use the base plate?
If so, how did you mount it?
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
SHOWER INSTALL

Is your Thetford Porta-Poti stored in the shower ?
If so, How do you keep it from moving around? Do you use the base plate?
If so, how did you mount it?
I store my Thetford Curve in my cargo area directly behind the shower. We typically move the toilet to the shower for late night use when camping. I use the shower about 10 times more often than the toilet. The Thetford is mounted to the Thetford base plate which I purchased on Amazon for about $12. The base plate itself is mounted to a 1/2” thick prefinished birch ply. The ply has two holes in it that match up with the spacing of my floor mounted L Track. So the combination base plate can be positioned in a number of locations if needed. I keep mine just behind the shower off center toward the drivers side allowing room to access the cargo compartment and also enough room to the side for a MTB to fit.


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gltrimble

Well-known member
RADIO POWER UPGRADE

Like most van owners using the radio when parked requires me to turn on the ignition. The problem with my Sprinter, equipped with the “auto” headlights, is that the ignition typically turns on the headlights and other assorted interior lights and power consumers. I have to remember to turn off the headlights or else extended use of the radio, headlights, and assorted power users will eventually drain my starter battery. It has happened to me twice when working on my van for multiple nights, forcing me to get out the jumper cables.

I made some simple modifications to the radio power supply to avoid having to use the ignition and starter battery to power the radio. Most radios including my Pioneer NEX have a constant 12 volt source and an ignition 12 volt source. The ignition source is used to turn on/off the radio. I transferred the full time 12 volt source to my house batteries. I added a switch to my overhead switch panel that sends a 12 volt signal to the ignition connector on the radio allowing me to turn on the radio without the ignition. To preserve the ignition power up capability I used a 12 volt relay that routes the same switched 12 volt power to the radio. This keeps the Mercedes system separate from my house 12 volt system.

The schematic for this arrangement was posted by another forum member. Perhaps some one can point to it for future reference. As you can see in the picture below I have started labeling all the various connections to the radio as it can be very confusing.

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sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
FWIW, you could probably skip that relay and replace it with a single diode (e.g. 1N4007).

The one-way current flow of the diode will prevent backfeeding the ignition circuit when your overhead switch is activate, and the 0.7V voltage drop from the diode is very unlikely to stop the radio from powering on when the key is turned to ignition.
 

Dave D

Active member
LITHIUM BATTERY HEATING SYSTEM

Earlier in 2020 I installed four Lion Energy 105 ah lithium batteries, replacing my existing AGM batteries. The new lithium batteries were slightly smaller in size compared to the AGM batteries which provided enough space to wrap each pair of batteries with an 80 watt battery heater and 3/4” of mini-cell foam for insulation. I also installed two Victron Battery Sense Bluetooth temperature monitors.
Hi, I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to compare the new Lion Energy batteries to the Full River AGMs yet? I’ve got the same Full River GC2s you had and am looking to replace them with Lithium’s also, and the Lion Energy ones are one of the choices.
Thanks
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
Hi, I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to compare the new Lion Energy batteries to the Full River AGMs yet? I’ve got the same Full River GC2s you had and am looking to replace them with Lithium’s also, and the Lion Energy ones are one of the choices.
Thanks
The Lion Safari batteries have worked out great. The Lion batteries tripled my usable amp-hour capacity. The Full Rivers were great AGM batteries but they were only useful between 70-100% SOC. Once below 75% SOC I would experience low voltage alarms from the big power consumers like my microwave. The Lions are usually at 13-13.5 volts and rarely drop below 12-12.5 volts. My AGMs would sag to 10-11 volts under heavy loads. The Lions are still working like new after 8 months. I still need to do a multi-day cold weather test on my lithium heating system. The only minor complaint is the size of the battery terminals. They could be bigger. I saved almost 180 lbs replacing the four batteries.
 

Dave D

Active member
The Lion Safari batteries have worked out great. The Lion batteries tripled my usable amp-hour capacity. The Full Rivers were great AGM batteries but they were only useful between 70-100% SOC. Once below 75% SOC I would experience low voltage alarms from the big power consumers like my microwave. The Lions are usually at 13-13.5 volts and rarely drop below 12-12.5 volts. My AGMs would sag to 10-11 volts under heavy loads. The Lions are still working like new after 8 months. I still need to do a multi-day cold weather test on my lithium heating system. The only minor complaint is the size of the battery terminals. They could be bigger. I saved almost 180 lbs replacing the four batteries.
Sounds like a win. My victron solar regulator has a lithium setting, but the challenge I’m facing is that I have a separate 275 amp alternator for the house bank with the Balmar 614 regulator (with a lithium setting) but the internal BMS on the LION battery can disconnect which would blow diodes in the regulator. I may need a lithium battery with an external BMS or figure out how to control the LION BMS externally.
 

RedBlogger

New member
RADIO POWER UPGRADE

Like most van owners using the radio when parked requires me to turn on the ignition. The problem with my Sprinter, equipped with the “auto” headlights, is that the ignition typically turns on the headlights and other assorted interior lights and power consumers. I have to remember to turn off the headlights or else extended use of the radio, headlights, and assorted power users will eventually drain my starter battery. It has happened to me twice when working on my van for multiple nights, forcing me to get out the jumper cables.

I made some simple modifications to the radio power supply to avoid having to use the ignition and starter battery to power the radio. Most radios including my Pioneer NEX have a constant 12 volt source and an ignition 12 volt source. The ignition source is used to turn on/off the radio. I transferred the full time 12 volt source to my house batteries. I added a switch to my overhead switch panel that sends a 12 volt signal to the ignition connector on the radio allowing me to turn on the radio without the ignition. To preserve the ignition power up capability I used a 12 volt relay that routes the same switched 12 volt power to the radio. This keeps the Mercedes system separate from my house 12 volt system.

The schematic for this arrangement was posted by another forum member. Perhaps some one can point to it for future reference. As you can see in the picture below I have started labeling all the various connections to the radio as it can be very confusing.

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Could you please explain that relay circuit a bit more or point to a schematic? I can kind of visualize how it could work with a 5 pin relay but I could be missing something.

I think this would work:
12V from Lithium batteries to yellow cable
12V from Lithium batteries to the switch in the cockpit and then to the coil terminal on the relay (other coil terminal to GND)
12V from Lithium batteries to the NO terminal on the relay
Cut the red radio wire, connect the radio-side to the COM terminal on the relay and the ignition-side to the NC relay terminal
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
Sounds like a win. My victron solar regulator has a lithium setting, but the challenge I’m facing is that I have a separate 275 amp alternator for the house bank with the Balmar 614 regulator (with a lithium setting) but the internal BMS on the LION battery can disconnect which would blow diodes in the regulator. I may need a lithium battery with an external BMS or figure out how to control the LION BMS externally.
Sounds like we have very similar systems. I have a Victron solar controller, Nations 280 amp auxiliary alternator, and a Balmar 614 voltage regulator. Both the Victron and Balmar are programmed for lithium although I did customize the Balmar programming some to increase the voltages. My Nations alternator is connected directly to my battery banks and has functioned flawlessly for almost 40+ months, 8 of those months with the Lion lithium batteries. No issues with the BMS or blown diodes.
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
Could you please explain that relay circuit a bit more or point to a schematic? I can kind of visualize how it could work with a 5 pin relay but I could be missing something.

I think this would work:
12V from Lithium batteries to yellow cable
12V from Lithium batteries to the switch in the cockpit and then to the coil terminal on the relay (other coil terminal to GND)
12V from Lithium batteries to the NO terminal on the relay
Cut the red radio wire, connect the radio-side to the COM terminal on the relay and the ignition-side to the NC relay terminal
I could not find the original schematic so I put a hand drawn one together. I cut the yellow and red wires leading from the harness plug to the radio. The red wire still connected to the harness should be your ignition source. Connect that to relay position 85. Use the ground wire from your 12 volt house battery if available. This setup keeps your default ignition activated radio and the switch gives you an alternate power up option. I may have used the harness ground but it all worked. The only sacrifice is you may lose steering wheel controls but no big deal since you are typically parked anyway.

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RedBlogger

New member
I could not find the original schematic so I put a hand drawn one together. I cut the yellow and red wires leading from the harness plug to the radio. The red wire still connected to the harness should be your ignition source. Connect that to relay position 85. Use the ground wire from your 12 volt house battery if available. This setup keeps your default ignition activated radio and the switch gives you an alternate power up option. I may have used the harness ground but it all worked. The only sacrifice is you may lose steering wheel controls but no big deal since you are typically parked anyway.

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Thanks. Seems a bit simpler than the way I had thought of it.
 

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gltrimble

Well-known member
BATTERY COMBINER & AUXILIARY BATTERY REMOVAL

I recently made some electrical mods that I have been planning. I was just waiting for a good reason to pull the driver’s seat to access the electrical. The install of my new Amp Powerstep was my reason, more details about that install to follow. I needed to access a power source to power the new powerstep so it was also an opportunity to install a 500 amp battery combiner that I had purchased long ago. My plan also included removal of the auxiliary battery. My auxiliary battery became obsolete with the installation of my lithium batteries which increased my usable amp-hours by three fold. The only thing powered by my aux battery was my subwoofer. The aux battery was 54 lbs of unnecessary weight over my front axle.

Eliminating the aux battery freed up the aux bus/fuse bar located on the backside of the driver’s seat base. My plan was to convert this copper bus/fuse and the bracket to mount my 500 amp Blue Sea battery combiner. The combiner would be used to tie my 420 ah house batteries to the AGM starter battery for emergency situations. I fabricated a small aluminum attachment to mount the battery combiner directly to the bus/fuse bracket. I removed the starter battery lead from the factory auxiliary/starter relay and connected it to one side of my battery combiner. For the other side of the combiner switch I ran a length of 2/0 cable thru the floor and back to the house battery main fuse. The combiner is controlled by a remote switch mounted in my overhead panel. The remote switch allows both manual and automatic operation. The bus/fuse bar also provided a convenient source for the 12 volt house batteries necessary to power my new Amp Powerstep and the subwoofer.


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I left the auxiliary battery bracket for now. Hoping I can find a storage box that will fit the bracket for use in storing tools or recovery gear.

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goldihop

Member
This thread is great, and another great idea. I would like to do this as part of my system. Unrelated, but do you have a link for the lights you used under the bed?
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
This thread is great, and another great idea. I would like to do this as part of my system. Unrelated, but do you have a link for the lights you used under the bed?
These are the lights in my cargo hold/lower bed. They are available with different lumen output. I used the more powerful version on the interior sill above the rear door (second picture). They light up the exterior when the rear doors are open.


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sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
The two person Transit seat measures 31” wide x 27” deep. The floor mounts are 22” long and 17” centerline. The floor mounts are offset 4” to one side depending on weather you choose to use the driver or passenger side seats available from the four seat rear Transit row.

My floor mounts are closer to the outer wall which aligns well for the floor bolts. The seat can be tilted forward or removed using the quick release latch.

The legroom is 33” from the front of seat to backside of driver pedestal. Better than Business Class.
I'm trying to determine if a 31" Transit seat could possibly be shoehorned (retrofitted) into my build without preventing the refrigerator door on the opposite side of the aisle from opening beyond 90 degrees. I don't need to do this often, but I do need it occasionally (e.g. to remove and clean the wire shelves).

With the fridge door open 90 degrees I have around 31 1/4" of clearance between the highest point on the fridge door and the van wall. It's a bit more towards the bottom of the door due to the inward curvature of the van wall.

If/when you have a free moment, I would love to know:

1. Is the seat "exactly" 31 inches wide? If it's actually 31 3/4", for example, that could be a deal breaker for me. Does it curve inward at all, making it narrower as it goes up?

2. Is there any give to the side of the seat (e.g. soft foam), or is there a hard steel frame right beneath the upholstery? In my case, I don't mind if the door scuffs against the seat as long as it can be made to swing past it.

3. Is there any trapezoid shape to the seat base? In the photos it looks wider at the front (right behind occupant's knees) than at the back, but that could be an illusion.

4. Do your seats have the LATCH system for child car seats? These are two metal tether points per seat, located between the seat bottom and the seat back.

I know it's a gamble whether or not the mounting holes will align with the flats on the floor corrugations, and that I may have to weld up a custom bracket/base to shift mounting points around if I cannot make it work, but I'd really like to know if the seat can be made to fit in that physical space.

Many thanks!
 

sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
I left the auxiliary battery bracket for now. Hoping I can find a storage box that will fit the bracket for use in storing tools or recovery gear.
Here's what I did for a storage box in that location:
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
I'm trying to determine if a 31" Transit seat could possibly be shoehorned (retrofitted) into my build without preventing the refrigerator door on the opposite side of the aisle from opening beyond 90 degrees. I don't need to do this often, but I do need it occasionally (e.g. to remove and clean the wire shelves).

With the fridge door open 90 degrees I have around 31 1/4" of clearance between the highest point on the fridge door and the van wall. It's a bit more towards the bottom of the door due to the inward curvature of the van wall.

If/when you have a free moment, I would love to know:

1. Is the seat "exactly" 31 inches wide? If it's actually 31 3/4", for example, that could be a deal breaker for me. Does it curve inward at all, making it narrower as it goes up?

2. Is there any give to the side of the seat (e.g. soft foam), or is there a hard steel frame right beneath the upholstery? In my case, I don't mind if the door scuffs against the seat as long as it can be made to swing past it.

3. Is there any trapezoid shape to the seat base? In the photos it looks wider at the front (right behind occupant's knees) than at the back, but that could be an illusion.

4. Do your seats have the LATCH system for child car seats? These are two metal tether points per seat, located between the seat bottom and the seat back.

I know it's a gamble whether or not the mounting holes will align with the flats on the floor corrugations, and that I may have to weld up a custom bracket/base to shift mounting points around if I cannot make it work, but I'd really like to know if the seat can be made to fit in that physical space.

Many thanks!
The seat does measure 31” wide for the upholstered portion. The plastic seat belt housing on top measures 32” wide. It is located 36-40” above the floor. I installed my seat approximately 1-1.5” off the drivers side sheet metal so it sits about 32” off the finished wall. There is no curvature to the seat, it measures 31” top and bottom.

There is some give to the upholstery of about 1/2”. The seat belt housing on top does not give.

As installed my seat sits directly on top of the floor ridges. My factory composite floor is reinforced with 1/2” ply below the seat. If the brackets do not align it would just be a matter of filling the corrugations with something solid or use a thicker floor.

The Transit seat does pivot forward almost 36” at the top if that would help. For my arrangement there is approximately 16” between the seat and my 20” wide galley. The refrigerator portion is 22” deep and the door extends about 19 1/2 inches into my 23” wide passageway. The shower across from my fridge is 25” deep

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