Six van build mistakes we made - and what we wish we'd done instead!
Updated: Jan 10
1. We fitted our fridge in the doorway, so when the sliding door is open and the sun shines in, it's right on the back of the fridge... If I were to build the van again, I'd swap the fridge and the sink around to keep the fridge cooler. That would also mean the hob was less affected by breezes. We did it this way based on the logic of keeping the hob's heat away from the bed and flammable things, and to let cooking smells go straight out the door, but on balance it would be better the other way around.
2. We fitted the cheapest breakers we could find. I assumed that if they were available to buy, they must be fit for the purpose. Not so! After struggling for a year to get our battery to battery charger (alternator to leisure batteries) to work, and changing the cables, the charger and various other things, it was upgrading the breaker that finally fixed the problem. In fact, one of these breakers had melted and come very close to causing a fire in our electrical cupboard, so if you have them in your van PLEASE swap them out as soon as possible.
Don't use these:
Use this style:
3. Not fitting a remote switch on our inverter. Our inverter is housed in the "garage" of the van, so to access it we have to open the back door, move a couple of chairs, take the front off the electrical cupboard and reach in to switch it on and off. This is no big deal when it's warm and sunny, but it's a real PITA when it's cold, or raining and pitch dark out! It's not a good idea to leave your inverter on when not in use as it uses electricity. So I'll be fitting a switch and running the wires through the van so we can turn it on and off from inside :)
4. Making the shower floor flat! We thought we were being so clever, making a wetroom with a compost toilet in it, and not using a shower tray. However, it turns out that we have to park with the van tilted towards the right so that the water can run down the drain! The plan was to use a squeegee to move any leftover water to the drain after showering but it's amazing how quickly the water fills up the wrong corner and threatens to overflow through the door runner meaning that you have to stop mid-lather to frantically scrape water to the drain with your foot because it turns out you can't actually bend over in the shower to use a squeegee while there's a bucket of water on the toilet lid and the door is shut to keep the breeze out!
5. Not plumbing the sink into the grey tank underneath the van. The sink and grey tank are on opposite sides of the van, so running a waste pipe from one to the other underneath the van was impossible because of all the chassis stuff in the way. We could have run a pipe through the insulation layer of our floor, but didn't think of it in time. We currently have a 10L jug (it came with our Chinese diesel heater as a diesel tank) under the sink, but it is a bit of a pain as we have to keep an eye on it daily to make sure it's not going to overflow. It needs emptying every 2-3 days and if we're not near a suitable grey water waste point, we'll pour it into the shower drain (into the grey tank) with a funnel. It's tedious!
6. Choosing a glass topped hob. It was fine for a year, and then one day I splashed a little hot water on it while cooking and the whole thing shattered! The supplier doesn't have a spare they can send us, although they have said they will when they do, so for now we've just taped up the sharp edges with gaffa tape! I wish we had chosen a stainless steel one...
So there you have it! Six mistakes that we wish we hadn't made, but by telling you, hopefully you wont make them too!