Rip Van Build - 2020 Sprinter 170 4x4 Crew

If you plan to charge the battery system with the alternator, I think you can take advantage of the existing wiring to plug in a battery-to-battery charger. It has a relay that disconnects the aux battery when the engine isn't running. I'm really only just figuring this all out myself, good luck with your build!
 
I am heading in that direction. Installing a D2, a second alternator from Nations Alternator and a couple Lithium batteries. I have a completely empty 170 cargo van and found upon pickup that the floor is first priority here. I am going to add insulation in rounds to see how it goes and adjust on the fly. Hydronic sounds splendid in the floor I just don’t have time before the camping in the snow starts this year.
 
Water Heater

I wanted to take advantage of the H12 (Fuel-fired pre-heater / booster) and H88 (Rear Heater Prep), so I purchased an Isotemp SPA (15 liters). The water is heated by the engine coolant when you drive, and can also be heated using the H12, or using a 120V heating element.

My initial intention was to mount the tank directly next to the H88 coolant lines, but I found that it fits like a glove right in front of the left rear wheel. I chose to put it in this spot because it allows me to mount a simple rectangular 25 gallon black water tank between the H88 and the Isotemp. This means I need to extend the coolant lines back to the Isotemp.

I modified (bent) the mounting brackets slightly so that the bolts lined up with the recessed ribs in the floor for a cleaner instal. This also pulled the tank up by a 1/2" or so. I'm running the water lines through the floor just in front of the rear wheel well. It will supply hot water to the sink at the front and the outdoor shower at the back.

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L-Track

I decided to mount 3 strips of L-track to the floor, as well as a strip running the length of each wall. The L-track on the floor will be used to mount the rear boxes and divider walls, as well as bike racks, board racks. The wall mounted L-track will be used to support the bed frame and cabinets. I used the recessed L-track with the flange, which is great on the floors as it is flush, and on the walls as it can be used to hold up the wood paneling. The only reasonable source I could find for recessed L-track in Canada was Grainger, which came predrilled with countersunk 1/4" holes every 4 inches, so that's what I was working with.

For the floors, I cut the L-track to length, and then backed it with some 3/8" x 1" aluminum stock to make up the space between the L-track and the floor, as I have 1/2" minicell below the plywood. Using the predrilled hole locations in the L-track, I chose the ones that lined up best with the ribbed floor, and drilled through the floor pan to bolt the assembly to the van, which ended up being around 6 per track. Using the remaining predrilled holes I drilled and tapped the aluminum backing plate, and screwed the L-track to the plate. Before final assembly, I adhered some 1/8" neoprene strip to the bottom of the aluminum backing plate to make a bit of a heat break between the L-track and the sheet metal floor. On the underside of the van, I currently have oversized washers and locknuts, but I will be adding plates to increase the strength.

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For the walls, I decided to go with rivnuts. I installed a rivnut every 8 inches at approximately 27.5" from the floor (or 28.5" from the factory floor). The rivnuts are at the same height as a series of factory holes. I didn't use those holes, but they were useful as a guide, and I drew lines between them to help keep everything level. You really have to be a tweaker when you drill the holes to make sure everything lines up properly with the L-track holes. I drilled the holes using a very small drill bit to make a pilot hole, then used a step drill which worked alright. Step drills are nice because you don't need to use a series of separate bits to size up the hole, and they don't grab onto the sheet metal like a traditional drill bit, but you have to be careful to stop at the right step. After the step drill, I used the drill size suggested for the rivnuts, with blocks of wood on the bit to make sure I didn't accidentally damage the outer sheet metal of the van. I painted the holes with a cold galvanizing spray paint using a Q-tip before setting the rivnuts. To instal the rivnuts, I purchased a simple rivnut hand tool from McMaster, and then immediately lost it. I then decided to buy a tool that attaches to an electric drill, but found my 20V dewalt drill was not powerful enough to deform the nuts, so I used that tool by hand with a socket on the chuck, which actually worked surprisingly well. I did some test nut sets with a piece of sheet metal I'd cut out of the van for the Espar vent, and found it was pretty clear when it was set, as the force goes exponentially up at the end, like lug nuts on a wheel. I used 304 stainless rivnuts and 316 stainless hardware in an effort to have less of a chance of galling, and put anti-seize / anti-corrosive nickel compound on the screws before final assembly. I also adhered some 1/8" thick neoprene strip to the van wall before mounting the L-track as a heat break. I was somewhat concerned that having the neoprene between the L-track and the rivnuts might make the rivnuts more likely to spin when tightening everything up, but I did not have any issues.

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I bought some shockingly affordable rubber mats from the dealer. I'm really pleased with the quality. The floor is angled, so I'm not sure how well they will keep water/melted snow from running off, but they are nice and grippy:

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I also installed tinted rain guards on the front windows, purchased from WeatherTech. They fit well, and only slow the windows down slightly as you roll them up. My intention is to keep the front window's cracked at night so air flows in through the windows and out through the vent fan. You can see one behind baby and mama who came to inspect my progress:

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Layout Design

I tried to find a 3D model of a sprinter 170 to use as a base for the layout, but couldn't find anything I liked, so I instead found 2D line drawings and built a 3D model in SolidWorks. It's by no means completely accurate, but between the drawings, and taking a few measurements from the actual van, I was able to model the important inside and outside features, and then start laying out the interior. I've been on a bit of a time crunch to get this primary build complete, so it has been really helpful to have a detailed plan. I ended up doing an 80/20 (15 series) aluminum extrusion structure for the majority of the interior components, and tied this structure into the L-Track. I'm no woodworker, and I'm building the van at the end of my in-law's driveway, so the closer this build is to an erector set, the better!

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The van came with a second row bench seat, which I may eventually replace with two more swivel captain's chairs to make passage to the front less awkward, but it's workable for now, and nice to be able to seat 5 (or use the bench seat as a changing table for the baby). Behind the bench seat, on the left side, there will be a sink, and then a Tecma macerating toilet below a folding countertop. On the right side there will be an induction stove and Cruise 195 fridge/freezer. The rear section of the van is a full sized queen bed mounted high enough to fit mountain bikes and foiling windsurf boards below.

The left side of the van will contain all water related systems - fresh, gray and black tank, water heater, sink, toilet, and outdoor shower. The right side contains the electronics - fridge, stove, house battery, inverter/charger, breaker panel, monitors and controls etc. This made the build out a little more straight forward and approachable.

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There were a lot of driving factors for this layout. It's cool to see all the different directions people go with their builds depending on their needs and preferences. We owned a mid-90s C-class Jamboree before this, and while it was a pain to park and drive (and got 8mpg) it was wonderful having a queen bed and bathroom. We will be using the van for a combination of cross country trips, and local camping trips / beach days. When we are just using the van around town, and for local surf / windsurf trips, I'll probably just store the bed and frame in our house so we can have a big hangout area, using the rear boxes as bench seats.
 
80/20 (15 series)

The two reasonable options for 80/20 are 10 series (1") and 15 series (1.5"). I think either would work well as long as you reinforce it in the key areas to be able to take the loads. I decided to go with 15 series to make everything a little more robust. The extrusions are also available in thin or thick wall. I chose to use thick wall for the vertical posts that tie into the ceiling, and for the structure around the fridge. Everything else is thin wall.

I found a local source (Faztek) that was able to cut to length, and mill the holes in the extrusions to allow me to build the structure using drop-in anchor assemblies to connect the extrusions to each other. I really enjoyed working with these. I went and picked up the order from Faztek, and had the majority of the structure built within a day. This was one of the best parts about having a 3D model. I designed everything to the inch, and just plugged the lengths in to Faztek's website to order.

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87seph

Member
Thank you for sharing your build! How are you securing the 80/20 to the L-Track?
 
Thank you for sharing your build! How are you securing the 80/20 to the L-Track?
I used "L-track double lug threaded stud" fittings to attach L-brackets to the L-track and then drop in nuts to bolt the L-bracket to the 80/20. for the L-brackets I sourced some 0.25" thick L-shaped aluminum extrusion of a few different dimensions, and cut and drilled each bracket individually. You can buy pre-made brackets, but for me, every fit was custom, so it was more practical to just cut them to fit. I've attached a photo of one of the brackets. In this case, the 80/20 was spaced out slightly from the L-track, so I made a bracket with one leg longer than the other.

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Jeffsprinter

New member
Tz
Water Heater

I wanted to take advantage of the H12 (Fuel-fired pre-heater / booster) and H88 (Rear Heater Prep), so I purchased an Isotemp SPA (15 liters). The water is heated by the engine coolant when you drive, and can also be heated using the H12, or using a 120V heating element.

My initial intention was to mount the tank directly next to the H88 coolant lines, but I found that it fits like a glove right in front of the left rear wheel. I chose to put it in this spot because it allows me to mount a simple rectangular 25 gallon black water tank between the H88 and the Isotemp. This means I need to extend the coolant lines back to the Isotemp.

I modified (bent) the mounting brackets slightly so that the bolts lined up with the recessed ribs in the floor for a cleaner instal. This also pulled the tank up by a 1/2" or so. I'm running the water lines through the floor just in front of the rear wheel well. It will supply hot water to the sink at the front and the outdoor shower at the back.

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View attachment 159091
Water Heater

I wanted to take advantage of the H12 (Fuel-fired pre-heater / booster) and H88 (Rear Heater Prep), so I purchased an Isotemp SPA (15 liters). The water is heated by the engine coolant when you drive, and can also be heated using the H12, or using a 120V heating element.

My initial intention was to mount the tank directly next to the H88 coolant lines, but I found that it fits like a glove right in front of the left rear wheel. I chose to put it in this spot because it allows me to mount a simple rectangular 25 gallon black water tank between the H88 and the Isotemp. This means I need to extend the coolant lines back to the Isotemp.

I modified (bent) the mounting brackets slightly so that the bolts lined up with the recessed ribs in the floor for a cleaner instal. This also pulled the tank up by a 1/2" or so. I'm running the water lines through the floor just in front of the rear wheel well. It will supply hot water to the sink at the front and the outdoor shower at the back.

View attachment 159088View attachment 159089View attachment 159090
View attachment 159091
Thanks for sharing the details. Have you had this out in any cold weather yet?
 
Tz


Thanks for sharing the details. Have you had this out in any cold weather yet?
Jeff,

I recently drove from Montreal to Southern California (about 55 hours) with my wife and baby. When we started the trip, it was well below freezing. While the run of pex from the interior to the water heater is only a couple feet, and pex is supposed to be able to tolerate freezing, I didn't want to push my luck, so I isolated the water heater by shutting off two inline valves in the pex lines I installed, and drained it. Once I was in slightly warmer temps, I opened it up and started using it again. My long term plan is to add a heating wire to these short runs of pex like Gltrimble (baby shamu) so I can be confident that everything will stay liquid.

I've been really happy with the unit. You don't need to drive very far to heat up the water heater with the coolant, and it's so lovely to have hot water.
 

Jeffsprinter

New member
Jeff,

I recently drove from Montreal to Southern California (about 55 hours) with my wife and baby. When we started the trip, it was well below freezing. While the run of pex from the interior to the water heater is only a couple feet, and pex is supposed to be able to tolerate freezing, I didn't want to push my luck, so I isolated the water heater by shutting off two inline valves in the pex lines I installed, and drained it. Once I was in slightly warmer temps, I opened it up and started using it again. My long term plan is to add a heating wire to these short runs of pex like Gltrimble (baby shamu) so I can be confident that everything will stay liquid.

I've been really happy with the unit. You don't need to drive very far to heat up the water heater with the coolant, and it's so lovely to have hot water.
Thanks for the info!
 

Shea V

New member
Hi Philip, a few questions for you.

1) My understanding is the fuel tap is used up when you get the H12 pre-heater booster option from factory. Can you confirm? I want to order my van with this option, but I also want to use the Espar S2 D2L heater, so need to tap in to the fuel. You have both this exact setup so can you confirm how you handled the fuel piece?

2) I thought I was also told by my dealer if you get H12 option, that excludes you from getting the H88 (rear heater prep option) as the H12 is using those extra set of lines already. Again, can you confirm?

My van will be a 2021 and will also come from Germany as I'm in Alberta.
 

Roamers

2020 4X4 170 Crew
Not true; have the combo in my 2020.
thought I was also told by my dealer if you get H12 option, that excludes you from getting the H88 (rear heater prep option) as the H12 is using those extra set of lines already
 
Hey Roamers, thanks for confirming. How about the fuel tap. Is there one still if you have H12?
My D2 kit came with a fuel tap, but I just spliced into the existing line to the H12 option coolant heater. The D2 just sips on diesel, and this seems to work well. You can see the T-fitting I added for the D2.D2 T-fitting.jpg
 
Plumbing

Galley

In a 170 with a crew seat and a full size bed oriented lengthwise, you end up with about 55 inches for the "galley" space. I decided not to build a boxed in bathroom, and instead installed a full length countertop with a large sink and a macerating toilet under a section of the countertop that flips up. To save water and tank space, the sink drains into a 12 gallon gray tank, which is then pumped through a filter and into the toilet (Tecma Elegance 2g). This allows me to get away with a smaller 20 gallon fresh water tank (NW Conversions wheel well tank). The fresh water tank is housed inside the 80/20 box over the left wheel well along with the pump, accumulator, and shower. I designed a 26 gallon stainless steel black water tank that fits under the van in the space between the H12 Coolant heater and the Isotemp water heater.

On our recent trip from Quebec to California, this set up lasted us 9 days. We have an outdoor shower at the back, and a standing platform fixed to the hitch, but we only used it once (embracing that van life). An indoor shower could be really nice in certain situations, but we found that we only used our indoor shower in our previous C-class RV a few times over the years, and really prefer to have an outside shower for beach use.

I used Pex tubing and brass fittings, with ball valves in each branch to be able to shut off any part of the system.

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Black Water Tank

I couldn't source a blackwater tank with the right dimensions, so I ended up designing one and having a local stainless steel fabricator make it out of 14 gauge 316 SS. On a 170, there is a nice open space along the left side of the van. I was able to fit a 26 gallon tank that is completely hidden from view. While the gray water tank can be drained into the black water tank through the toilet, I also added a direct spray nozzle to clean the black tank. I'll dump the black tank, close the 3" dump valve, open the spray nozzle valve, and flush the toilet a couple more times as I open the dump valve again. As it finishes draining the water is clear. it probably helps that there is a fair amount of soap in the gray water from the sink.

Tank Ready to Instal
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Vent (stainless steel boat through hull fitting)
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3" Dump Valve
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KUS tank level sender
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Spray nozzle
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