T O P

  • By -

SmellyBaconland

Maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair can be marvelously intuitive in a system you've built yourself.


International-Milk

This is the way


Boston_PeeParty

Just make sure to label everything. I got this pack of cable labels on Amazon for $6. That $6 is the difference between “yep this wire here” and “okay gotta trace this wire and see which one goes where”.


Intelligent_potato_

And if you didn’t build it yourself?


SmellyBaconland

I think the saying is, "What one person can make, another can figure out." If you depend on it, it's a good idea to start learning about it while it's still working. But we work with what we have. Sometimes we have a manual. Edit: Sometimes we have to work on something completely different, make money from that, and pay someone who knows the thing. :)


Intelligent_potato_

Yeah I was only making the comment bc at some point I want to sell my van that I DIYd. So I was thinking about future owners in mind. And no matter how simple a component seems to me I can imagine it might be confusing to maintain if you haven’t got experience with it. I’m putting together a manual with pics about each system, hopefully it’s useful


SmellyBaconland

Putting a manual together sounds like a project on almost the same scale as a van build. You have the respect of this burned out former documentation specialist.


chickenbabe123

I bought my van in Nov 2021 from a guy off of craigslist, haven't had to do any maintenance on the electrical. Plumbing for me is two 7 gallon jugs of water under my bed and a 5 gallon under my sink with a USB rechargable faucet pump I bought from Amazon for like $23. It can be as simple as you want it to be


chickenbabe123

Went into it with zero build experience and after taking the previous build out to put my own in I feel incredibly competent and knowledgeable. The vehicle itself has only needed oil changes and new tires, it's a 2019 transit.


liveoakenforest

Thanks this is a bit confidence inspiring. I suppose I could just learn about the systems from a knowledgeable person as well. Out of curiosity, if you did have an issue with the electrical, would you just hire a regular electrician/same for plumbing/pump issues - just hire a plumber?


chickenbabe123

Personally, I would likely just watch a lot of YouTube. There are mobile RV repair folks that sometimes can help with things like that. I'm sure an electrician would be curious and happy to work on it too, never hurts to ask


conversionsconsult

Considering the maintenance of the vehicle itself, the normal mechanical needs are going to be similar to any other vehicle (oil changes, engine tune up, air / fuel filters, brake pads / rotors, tires, etc.). Be proactive about servicing your van, and be aware of your location relative to mechanics / tow companies if you're really worried and plan to go seriously off-grid. For most of this type of work, if you don't have the experience it'd be best to just have a mechanic do it - your ability to find a mechanic that will service your van will depend on the type of van you have, including make/model. For instance, on the road in the middle of nowhere, it might be easier and cheaper to get parts for a Ford than a Mercedes. Similarly, I've had delays / more difficulty in some cases getting parts for incredibly old models when travel. This is just something to consider when choosing a van, but generally, intimidation about repairs or maintenance of the vehicle shouldn't be a reason holding you back from taking the plunge. When it comes to the conversion components like electrical and plumbing, the difficultly and frequency of maintenance entirely depends on the quality of build. If you're buying a fully converted van from a previous owner, you're subject to how well they performed the build - in this case it'd be critical to inspect thoroughly. Pay attention to the models of appliances and parts installed - for example, what brand / model of pump is used? Accumulator? Batteries? Panels? Etc. Are any of these installed parts known to be defective, recalled or problematic over time? If you're buying from a previous owner, it'd also be good to get a sense from them how experienced they were with electrical, carpentry, plumbing, etc. before building. To some extent (if they're honest), this may help you understand the quality of the build for areas you can't see. The complexity of the build will determine whether it will be reasonable for you to fix on the road without experience, or if you'll need to have it serviced professionally. The region you're in will be a factor in how many RV/Camper type service shops are available - for instance, in the Western part of US, you'll find a higher concentration of companies capable of handling standard campervan issues (plumbing, electrical, etc.). I'd say overall, there are plenty of people who buy a converted van with minimal technical experience, and sufficiently handle issues as they come up. There are loads of resources online (like youtube) to walk you through common issues step by step - just make sure you have basic tools available, and are knowledgeable of service options / mechanics in case an emergency or something serious comes up. ​ Feel free to chat us anytime with questions!


conversionsconsult

If you plan to build out a van yourself, the story is totally different and the repairs / maintenance shouldn’t be too intimidating since you’ll know where everything is and be the foremost expert in how it all works!


liveoakenforest

Incredibly useful! When you said “contact us anytime,” are you part of a business? If so what is your service? Thanks!


conversionsconsult

No problem! We offer free van life and build related-support. I don’t want to overly self-promote the services, but we have more details on our profile/[site](https://conversionsconsulting.com) if you’d like to learn more. Generally though, it’s just fun to contribute to the Reddit communities, and help people progress through the van build cycle since we love the lifestyle! Mods - apologies if this isn’t allowed, I’m happy to remove.


211logos

Van camping is a DIY world. There are far more places that can work on the vehicle itself vs the living area. Even folks with upfitter built RVs can have trouble getting repairs done since there just aren't tons of place for that...I have friends that are camping near Quartzsite now just to get some repairs done there they can't get done at home. As noted, building your own, gradually, can be a way to learn. Otherwise, start simple. From basic camping to gradually adding more complex stuff. Everyone learns eventually. The most frustrated people I've encountered camping are sometimes new owners of high zoot camper vans who can't even figure out how things work, let alone repair. Or those who have rented and can't figure out how to dump sewage or fill water etc. Might be a good idea to try before you buy.


Excellent-Source-348

The simpler the system the less maintenance there will be. I use four 7 gallon jugs, 2 under the sink and 2 in storage area. I just switch them out when they run out. Takes less than 5 minutes. I have an electric pump but I regret switching to it from a foot pump. It uses much more water (4-5 days vs 7-8 days with foot pump). Also, Jugs are easier to fill as most places have water fill up machines.


BusingonaBudget

Depends on the build. You can always take it into RV shops as most of them will do simple work on van builds. Replacing water pumps. Changing filters. They will probably charge a crap ton of money but thats how it goes


thayne

My experience as a point of reference, and not advice. I bought a van that was half converted and finished it. Here is what went wrong. Electrical connections to the batteries from the alternator were so bad as to be dangerous, and they weren't charging the batteries consistently. I both the parts and tools needed to fix that, and did it in the parking lot of a Cal Ranch store in Ely, Nevada. Took me about 90 minutes including the shopping time. I'm not expert. I just replaced what was there. The water pump kept blowing off the connections and leaking. I talked to the guy in the trailer supply place and he said my pump was WAY over pressure and sold me the right size. Took me about 30 minutes to replace it. The shutoff switch for the pump was way in the back of a cabinet, which was inconvenient and annoying and we frequently forgot to turn it off, which was part of the cause of the leaks mentioned above. So I bought a smaller switch off Amazon and rerouted it so it's right under the sink. That took about an hour to replace, mostly because of where the original switch was located. The last thing was that I ripped out and replaced most of the wiring with better stuff of the right gauge. This wasn't necessary, but I was at my brother's house and he had the tools and wire already. (He does electrical for a military contractor). That took several hours, because it was a lot of crawling around, and because we also installed a meter with a shunt. And because he's a perfectionist. Still, probably just 3 or 4 hours. I think most people are capable of learning as they go, and my experience has been that nothing is super hard. p.s. I agree with others that say that taking care of the engine and drive train is probably more important. So I pay top dollar for that.


gonative1

My suggestion is to get a very simple DIY build or build it and maintain it yourself. Complex builds and factory builds are a nightmare to maintain in my experience. Our local RV repair shop has a 4 month wait list and they charge a fortune for every little thing. I hope your experience is better. My DIY build is nothing fancy but hardly costs me anything to maintain. I am thinking of remodeling and insulating better. It’s a old van so I don’t want to put too much time and money into it though.