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Old 08-08-2020, 10:51 PM   #1
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Default Building a cmpervan on 2020 Transit chassis

Over the last few days I flip-flopped about what to do. I was sure I'll go with Transit, then I visited couple of Mercedes dealers and saw a beautiful Mercedes with 10 inch nav screen, then someone bought it. Later I test drove Mercedes and it remained me of old Żuk van I drove in Poland in the seventies. Every pothole, every rough surface rattled the body panels. I know, it would go away after putting insulation on it, but still... Then I went to Ford dealer and test drove a Transit with the EcoBoost engine - and... Wow! Suddenly I knew it will be my next van. That thing flies! And is solid as a brick, even when I drive it over rough RR crossing. I am ordering mine this Tuesday.

I can use some help from you with the configuration thou. So far I think I'll go with:

Base MSRP $43,075
Total of Options $5,585
Destination Charges $1,695
Total MSRP $51,775

Cargo Van, XL, Transit Long EL 250, High Roof, 148", 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine, 10-Speed Automatic Overdrive with SelectShift® Auxiliary, Transmission Oil Cooler Limited Slip Axle $43,075
Paint Ingot Silver $200
Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package $485
Power Sliding Door $995
Running Boards – Extended Length $655
Keys – Two (2) Additional $75
Keyless Entry Keypad $95
Spare Tire and Wheel with Four-Ton Jack $0
Heavy-Duty Front Axle $315
Extended Range Fuel Tank $285
Reverse Sensing System $0
Side Sensing System $475
AGM Batteries – Dual $0
Exterior Lighting – Autolamp $35
Exterior Lighting – Front Fog Lamps $0
Windows – Fixed Glass, Rear-Door and Passenger-Side Cargo Door $250
Short Arm Power Adjusting, Manual-Folding Mirrors $0
16" Silver Steel Wheel with Exposed Lug Nuts-Heavy-Duty $0
235/65R16C 121/119 R BSW All-Season Tires $0
Dark Palazzo Gray Cloth, 10-Way Power Driver and 10-Way Power Passenger Seats $990
Vehicle Maintenance Monitor $45
Floor Covering – Front Carpet Floor Mats $30
Floor Covering – Front Carpet $35
Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiting Device (ASLD) $325
Horn – Dual Note $20
Dual Alternator $845
Six (6) Speaker $25
Powerpoint Outlet – 12V$15
Auxiliary Fuse Panel with High Spec Interface Connector $0
Audio Pack #22: AM/FM Stereo with Bluetooth and HD SiriusXM®, Audio Input Jack, SYNC® 3, and 8" Colored Multi-Function Touch Screen $650

Not sure if I should go with 3.31 or 3.73 axle? If that calculator is right, at 70 mph it would be either 1750 or 1970 RPM (https://apx6u.app.goo.gl/eX29)

I am also not sure if I should go with 9070 lbs T250 or 9500 lbs T350. The price difference is about $1300, for gain of 430 lbs. I think it's not worth it.

And what about seats? Is the basic seat good enough? For $990 I can have "heated 10-way power seats with lumbar and armrest"?

Do I need "Heavy-Duty front axle with a 4,630 lb. FGAWR"? For $315 sims like a reasonable option.
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Old 08-08-2020, 11:05 PM   #2
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If Ford, I'm more familiar with the pre-2020's. But I'd consider
  • trailer brake controller (cannot be added later)
  • up fitters switches
  • one of the builders auxiliary power options (not sure which is compatible with the second alternator
  • T350
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Old 08-09-2020, 12:25 AM   #3
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Ford? (title says Mercedes.....)

If Ford, I'm more familiar with the pre-2020's. But I'd consider
  • trailer brake controller (cannot be added later)
  • up fitters switches
  • one of the builders auxiliary power options (not sure which is compatible with the second alternator
  • T350
Can you tell me why?

1. I am not planing to tow anything, unless I need to bring something from my local Home Depot on rented trailer. I know, I checked "Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package", but I'll use it probably only for a bike rack.

2. What are the "upfitter switches"? What I need them for? There is an option "Upfitter Interface Module" for $255. It says: "This technology makes it easy for upfitters to operate aftermarket equipment, such a lift buckets or cranes", however it is only available for "fleets". And I have no idea why I would need it.

3. Why T350? Isn't T250 softer, more comfortable? I hope I won't go over 2000 lbs wit my conversion. However I can be wrong... However I can only choose between 9070 (T250) and 9500 (T350) lbs.
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:11 PM   #4
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I'd go with the T350. The T250 is on the border of being overloaded. If you do a full bulld-out and load it up with all your stuff, you'll be at 9000 lbs give or take a few hundred lbs. There should be no ride difference between the 250 and 350.
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Old 08-29-2020, 06:25 AM   #5
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I'd go with the T350...
To late, I ordered T250. I have to go "light", because eventually I am going to take this rig to Europe and I have to be able to stay under 3,5 t (7 700 lbs).

I am still confused about electrical system. On one hand I received letter from Victron:

"Hello Piotr,

I was forwarded your email from Victron. The largest they offer is the buck boost 12-12V 100A charger. You would need multiple of these to maximize your charge output capability.

It is fully programmable via their software and I have installed them into both Promasters and Sprinters but not a Transit yet. I don’t see that it would be much different.

See here: https://www.victronenergy.com/dc-dc-converters/buck-boost-dc-dc-converter-25a-50a"


...which suggest that it is quite a simple thing. On other there are treads on this forum showing multiple problems with "smart" dual alternators. Which is the truth?
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Old 08-29-2020, 03:20 PM   #6
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I would start with requirements and then find a suitable van, not find van first. What iare your weight requirements based on upfit weights, tank sizes, passengers etc.? Where do you want to go..what capabilities needed - roof configuration for solar/racks? ground clearance? length? overall height? 4x4? Once you have your requirements determined your choices might become clearer.
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Old 08-29-2020, 03:27 PM   #7
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If building a van to use in Europe you might want to consider electrical system, propane fittings, water hookups, media and other differences in your initial build to avoid having to retrofit. If using the van in Europe (or perhaps selling it there) is a consideration, fuel costs may become a bigger factor in chassis choice.
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Old 08-29-2020, 04:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Polonus View Post
To late, I ordered T250. I have to go "light", because eventually I am going to take this rig to Europe and I have to be able to stay under 3,5 t (7 700 lbs).

I am still confused about electrical system. On one hand I received letter from Victron:

"Hello Piotr,

I was forwarded your email from Victron. The largest they offer is the buck boost 12-12V 100A charger. You would need multiple of these to maximize your charge output capability.

It is fully programmable via their software and I have installed them into both Promasters and Sprinters but not a Transit yet. I don’t see that it would be much different.

See here: https://www.victronenergy.com/dc-dc-converters/buck-boost-dc-dc-converter-25a-50a"


...which suggest that it is quite a simple thing. On other there are treads on this forum showing multiple problems with "smart" dual alternators. Which is the truth?
Regarding the 7700 lb limit, is this a shipping limit or some sort of European limit? Just so you know, my empty Pleasure Way Lexor weighs in at 7775 lbs leaving 1575 lbs for people, water and stuff. Granted this is on the 21' Ram Promaster, but it should give you some idea of what a "full" build out will weigh. Did you get the 19'5" Transit or the bigger 22'2" Transit? If you got the latter, you really need to watch how you build it out if your empty weight needs to be below 7700 lbs.

Regarding the electrical system, are you asking what is needed if you use a second alternator to charge your coach battery?
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Old 08-29-2020, 05:09 PM   #9
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Regarding the 7700 lb limit, is this a shipping limit or some sort of European limit?
In Europe vehicles over 3,5t require "professional" driver licence and they are subject to highway use tax collected by "viaTOLL" from the transponders on every commercial vehicle. Heavy RV's are not exempt from that law.

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my empty Pleasure Way Lexor weighs in at 7775 lbs leaving 1575 lbs for people, water and stuff. [...] Did you get the 19'5" Transit or the bigger 22'2" Transit? If you got the latter, you really need to watch how you build it out if your empty weight needs to be below 7700 lbs.
That 7700lbs limit is for GVW, however in practice many vans go over it. Recently I read about cargo van registered as a 3,5 t vehicle, checked by DOT, weighing empty 3.6 tons. I'll have the biggest body, extended lenght and high roof. I know it will be challenging to keep the weight low, but it is possible. This conversion weighs 1800 lbs "dry": https://faroutride.com/weight-summary/ - and stays below 7700 lbs limit.

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Originally Posted by JLO11111 View Post
Regarding the electrical system, are you asking what is needed if you use a second alternator to charge your coach battery?
Yes, that is my question. I need some simple explanation how that works. I am not planning on solar now, so it would be rather simple setup, eight to twelve LiFePo4 batteries, usually charged by rigs alternators, plus shore power inlet for charging home or at RV parks.

I've got a letter from Victron, which says:

"[...] buck boost 12-12V 100A charger. You would need multiple of these to maximize your charge output capability.
It is fully programmable via their software and I have installed them into both Promasters and Sprinters but not a Transit yet. I don’t see that it would be much different.
See here: https://www.victronenergy.com/dc-dc-converters/buck-boost-dc-dc-converter-25a-50a"

However when I read Transit forum, I can only see problems. Looks like it is not as simple as it looks - or maybe it is. I don't know. I'd like to be sure before I spend hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands for something which will not work properly.
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Old 08-29-2020, 05:18 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Belzar View Post
I would start with requirements and then find a suitable van, not find van first. What iare your weight requirements based on upfit weights, tank sizes, passengers etc.? Where do you want to go..what capabilities needed - roof configuration for solar/racks? ground clearance? length? overall height? 4x4? Once you have your requirements determined your choices might become clearer.
We already took all of those questions into consideration. Our van is ordered and scheduled for production, so I am "stuck" with the options I have chosen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belzar View Post
If building a van to use in Europe you might want to consider electrical system, propane fittings, water hookups, media and other differences in your initial build to avoid having to retrofit. If using the van in Europe (or perhaps selling it there) is a consideration, fuel costs may become a bigger factor in chassis choice.
"European option" is a big "maybe" down the road. If I ever take it there, it would be not before 2025 or so. Plenty of time to retrofit it to European standards.

We will go without propane, no TV, so it won't be that many things to change.
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Old 08-29-2020, 05:55 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Polonus View Post
In
Yes, that is my question. I need some simple explanation how that works. I am not planning on solar now, so it would be rather simple setup, eight to twelve LiFePo4 batteries, usually charged by rigs alternators, plus shore power inlet for charging home or at RV parks.

I've got a letter from Victron, which says:

"[...] buck boost 12-12V 100A charger. You would need multiple of these to maximize your charge output capability.
It is fully programmable via their software and I have installed them into both Promasters and Sprinters but not a Transit yet. I don’t see that it would be much different.
See here: https://www.victronenergy.com/dc-dc-converters/buck-boost-dc-dc-converter-25a-50a"

However when I read Transit forum, I can only see problems. Looks like it is not as simple as it looks - or maybe it is. I don't know. I'd like to be sure before I spend hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands for something which will not work properly.
My understanding is you need a buck boost DC DC converter or an alternator volt regulator to control the voltage and current output. I don't think it's that hard. Take a look at nations alternator. I believe they sell entire kits and can get you exactly what you want.
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Old 08-29-2020, 07:32 PM   #12
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My understanding is you need a buck boost DC DC converter or an alternator volt regulator to control the voltage and current output. I don't think it's that hard. Take a look at nations alternator. I believe they sell entire kits and can get you exactly what you want.
I already have dual alternators in my van. I hope buck boost DC/DC from Victron Energy will work, but I'd like to see it first in someone else vehicle.
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Old 10-22-2023, 03:40 PM   #13
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I had 6 Orions by Victron, connected pararell, and I tried to pull to many amps to charge my battery pack so I cooked the circuit breaker under the driver seat. Now I use only 4 Victron Orions 30A 12V-> 15A 24V and that works fine. I already made trip from Charlotte to Alaska and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT and from Charlotte to Chicago, then Route66 to Santa Monica and back to NC and everything works perfectly.



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Old 10-23-2023, 12:55 AM   #14
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Nice work, 80/20 is getting very popular in the campervan DIY world. Thank you for sharing.

I didn’t see a heater in your build, did I miss it?

Did you had opportunity to weigh your van?

Location of your grey water dump valve would make dumping on standard RV station difficult, why did you locate it in the center of the van?
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Old 10-23-2023, 01:40 AM   #15
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Nice work, 80/20 is getting very popular in the campervan DIY world. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you. 80/20 works! I went to Alaska twice and made several hundred miles on unpaved roads following old Route 66 and everything stays firm in the place. I didn't have to tighten anything.

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I didn’t see a heater in your build, did I miss it?
I gave huge batteries, 4X170Ah, 24V. That's 16 kWh of stored energy. My AC unit has heating option, I can also use the electric space heater - 750W heater run for 8 hrs would use less than half of that energy. However mostly I am using electric, heated sheets. They don't use much of the electricity, about 150 W and they work really good. And I have no desire to go to the snowbelt in the winter. I live in NC and in winter months I'll travel only south.

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Did you had opportunity to weigh your van?
Yes, I did and it's heavy. It is easy for me to overload it. New, empty van weighted 5880 lbs - F 3120, R 2760. When we finished our build, it was 8660 total, 3460 F, 5200 R. But when I actually went for a trip, it was 9260 total, 3300 front and 5960 lbs rear. Quite close to the our tire limit, which is 3000 lbs per tire.

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Location of your grey water dump valve would make dumping on standard RV station difficult, why did you locate it in the center of the van?
Becouse it was the easiest place to mount it.
I have only very small, 5 gallons, gray water tank under the kitchen sink. Water from kitchen sink I can dump in many places, don't have to look for RV stations. I have electric valve operated from the inside of the van. For instance I can park my van on top of the rain water drain in WalMart parking lot and dump it there.
If I cannot do it, I have 2.5 gallon container which I am placing under the gray water tank and I am dumping that water there and displace it in the proper place. I have to do it twice, since the container holds only 1/2 of the tank capacity, but it's not a big deal.

I use that container also to collect water from my shower. Shower has neither the clean, nor the gray water tank. I simply pour half a gallon of hot water into it, recirculate it when showering, dump it, pour another half gallon of fresh, clean water to finish showering my body, dump it into the container, and dispose of it in the proper place.
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Old 10-23-2023, 02:03 AM   #16
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Moderator's note:
Please note that the gray water dumping procedure described in the above message is illegal in many localities. We have allowed the message because it is not illegal everywhere, but readers should be aware that it is not a widely-accepted practice.

--The Moderators
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Old 10-23-2023, 02:19 AM   #17
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Moderator's note:
Please note that the gray water dumping procedure described in the above message is illegal in many localities. We have allowed the message because it is not illegal everywhere, but readers should be aware that it is not a widely-accepted practice.

--The Moderators
I am quite aware of that, that's why I said: "If I cannot do it, I have 2.5 gallon container which I am placing under the gray water tank and I am dumping that water there and displace it in the proper place."

However when you travel in the far north territories, either in Alaska, or Canada, sometimes the closest RV dump station could be hundreds miles away. I don't use any detergents in my van and there is no any harm to the environment when I dump in the wilderness 5 galons of water I used only to wash my coffe mug and to brush my teeth and I stay mostly on the BLM land, where:

"§ 8365.1-1 Sanitation.
(b) On all public lands, no person shall, unless otherwise authorized:

(3) Drain sewage or petroleum products or dump refuse or waste other than wash water from any trailer or other vehicle except in places or receptacles provided for that purpose".

BTW town of Tuktoyaktuk in NorthWest Teriitories, Canada, at the end of the Dempster Highway, by the Arctic Ocean, looks like the garbage disposal field. I was very dissapointed wen I saw how they treat that land.
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Old 10-23-2023, 02:34 AM   #18
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Thank you. 80/20 works! I went to Alaska twice and made several hundred miles on unpaved roads following old Route 66 and everything stays firm in the place. I didn't have to tighten anything.

.......................
Indeed, 80/20 works. I built my van in 2013, on the Sprinter Forum this was the third conversion using 80/20 and no regrets, it is solid.
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Old 01-10-2024, 09:52 PM   #19
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Congrats on narrowing down your choice to the Ford Transit! I think it's the best choice.

Now, for your questions:

Axle Ratio (3.31 or 3.73): Choosing between 3.31 and 3.73 depends on your driving needs. If you prioritize fuel efficiency, the 3.31 might be more suitable. However, if you plan to do a lot of towing or carrying heavy loads, the 3.73 could provide better performance. Consider your typical use and the trade-off between power and fuel efficiency.

T250 vs. T350: Given the modest price difference and the gain of 430 lbs, it might be worth going for the T350. It can offer increased payload capacity, providing flexibility for future needs or unexpected cargo.

The decision between basic seats and the heated 10-way power seats depends on your personal preferences and comfort priorities. If you spend extended periods in your van or plan to use it in varying weather conditions, the upgraded seats could enhance your driving experience.

Heavy-Duty Front Axle: If you anticipate carrying heavy loads frequently, the heavy-duty front axle might be a reasonable option. It contributes to the overall durability and stability of the vehicle, especially when dealing with substantial cargo.
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Old 01-10-2024, 10:47 PM   #20
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Congrats on narrowing down your choice to the Ford Transit! I think it's the best choice.

Now, for your questions:

Axle Ratio (3.31 or 3.73): Choosing between 3.31 and 3.73 depends on your driving needs. If you prioritize fuel efficiency, the 3.31 might be more suitable. However, if you plan to do a lot of towing or carrying heavy loads, the 3.73 could provide better performance. Consider your typical use and the trade-off between power and fuel efficiency.
I already have chosen 3.31 - and, I think, it was a mistake. I have now bigger wheels, so de facto my axle ratio is about 3.00. I don't think that driving at 1250 RPM is very healthy for the engine. When I drive on more demanding roads I turn on the "trailer towing" option, and that raise my RPM to about 1750.

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T250 vs. T350: Given the modest price difference and the gain of 430 lbs, it might be worth going for the T350. It can offer increased payload capacity, providing flexibility for future needs or unexpected cargo.
I bought the T-250 and installed air bags for the rear axle. I know - they do not change the GVWR, but they greatly help, keeping the rear of the van high.

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The decision between basic seats and the heated 10-way power seats depends on your personal preferences and comfort priorities. If you spend extended periods in your van or plan to use it in varying weather conditions, the upgraded seats could enhance your driving experience.
I have the manually adjusted 4-way swivel seats. I already drove almost 50K miles and I feel very comfortable even after 10-hours drive.

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Heavy-Duty Front Axle: If you anticipate carrying heavy loads frequently, the heavy-duty front axle might be a reasonable option. It contributes to the overall durability and stability of the vehicle, especially when dealing with substantial cargo.
Ford Transit EXT has very long overhang so the rear axle is the problem. However in the front springs I have sumo inserts, helping with the extra weight.
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