A cargo van conversion should follow basic rules during every phase of the construction. Any change or addition to the van, may impact the warranties of the van or the appliances, that are added to it.
It may also affect the fuel consumption and performance of the vehicle. Aerodynamics , added weight and distribution of weight, all change the way you will use your converted van.
The design and implementation of the conversion should at least conform with the following stipulations:
- Overloading of the vehicle could result in unacceptable ground clearance.
- The center of mass of the payload should be located within the wheelbase of the vehicle.
- Avoid one-sided load distribution.
- Raising the center of gravity will affect ride and handling.
- Make sure that the design disperses the load evenly.
- Make sure that the vehicle structural integrity is maintained.
- Before drilling the floor, ceiling, walls and doors, check the No Drill zones.
- All fixings through the floor, sides or roof must be sealed.
- Use existing load lashing points when securing the floor panels.
- Use of plywood:
- Should be water resistant.
- Use ½ in. floors and ¼ in. thickness for sides and doors.
- Apply a plywood floor that it is joint free.
Installation of a roof vent requires:
- Do not cut the vent opening through the roof bows.
- An unsupported roof panel can support less than 2-3 lbs.
- Loads up to approx. 50 lbs must be distributed over full length roof rails between the roof bows.
- Don’t cut into the vehicle wiring.
- Do not use connectors which cut through the outer covering and into the core wire.
- Exterior connections must be waterproof.
- Seal all wire connections with a heat shrink tubing.
- Distance between retention points for wiring not contained in a rigid shield should be a maximum of 12 in.
- Use drip loops (wiring routed BELOW the point of entry) to prevent water leakage into the vehicle interior.
- Wiring passing through sheet metal must go through protective grommets that also ensure a watertight seal.
- Additional earth returns should be included to support new equipment.
- Do not place more than 2 eyelet terminals under a single ground screw.
- A supplementary circuit diagram and description for all new wiring should be added to the Owner’s manual.
Avoid corrosion problems when making changes to the metal frame or supports of the vehicle:
- Repaint metal edges and protect against corrosion after cutting or drilling operations.
- Remove all waste metal filings from inside the side member and treat to prevent corrosion.
- Apply corrosion protection inside and outside of the chassis frame.
- After drilling, deburr and countersink all holes and remove chips from the frame.
A certain amount of wood cabinets, counters and other furniture will be part of a conversion.
- Don’t overbuild.
- Use plywood for strength and to minimize weight.
- Try to avoid use of harmful chemicals while finishing the wood.
- Build with the extremes of high speed collisions in mind.
Most of these issues can be avoided with a good dose of common sense. Don’t hurry, but take your time to do things correctly. Use the correct tools and follow the appropriate installation procedures. And if in doubt, ask a professional or use the Internet as backup (but make sure, you’ll get the right information).