How I Converted A VAN into an OFF GRID CAMPER for under $3,000

Hello and welcome to my van conversion video, my name is Anna, I'm 18 and I'm currently living in a 1997 Chevy Gladiator van and have been for almost two weeks now I think. I bought this van for $5000 in May with the goal to convert it for under $5000 so all together with the cost of the van, under $10000 and so I spent 2-3 months converting it and then I set out on my road trip on August 15th 2018 I do have some things to say before I get actually into the build so if you want to skip to a certain part or just the beginning and then you can go to the times on the screen. So I converted this van when I was 17/18 years old and I did it mainly by myself but I did have some help from my parents a relative and somebody that my mom knew who helped me with the electrical stuff and pretty much did all that for me while I just watched and took notes.

But the reason that I wanted to film all this is because I wanted to show people that you do not have to be a thirty year old male who is a carpenter and an electrician and all that stuff to build a van and that doesn't mean that my van is the most spectacular build ever, there are certainly many flaws in it. It's not easy at all to convert a van but it is definitely more possible than you think and I had basically no experience in any of this kind of stuff before going into it, I pretty much only knew how to like use a saw and a drill and that's about it. I watched a ton of van build videos before starting the conversion myself and that's where I learned how to do all this stuff from but the problem is that so many people out there who are doing this are way more experienced and therefore some things just seem more obvious to them and they don't explain anything at all it seems like.

And that makes it kind of hard but I try to make this build as easy to understand as possible like this is totally for noobs so if you're more experienced with this kind of stuff I might seem like I'm saying extremely obvious things at points but just because it's obvious to you doesn't mean it's obvious to everybody else and the van build video is- I think it's detailed enough that you can actually kind of see what I'm doing but it's more for a visual. I have a page on my website called my man build where you can read extremely detailed step-by-step instructions for how I did literally everything. The video kind of just shows and the website really explains so I highly recommend checking both out. On my website I also have information about buying a van, preparing for the build, and products that I use like the fridge or my solar panels and all that kind of stuff is listed on there and I have an about page for my travels and then a travel plans page.

I'll also link videos in the description that I made about me trying to find a van and
a van tour once it's up and tearing everything out of my van. So if you watch this video and then go over to the more detailed explanation on the van build and you still have questions, please feel free to DM me on Instagram or email me both of those are in the description. I would love to help as much as I can but keep in mind I'm not an expert on any of these things and also if I say anything that is incorrect or like very bad advice, especially regarding electrical stuff please let me know so that I can put some kind of disclaimer either in a pin comment or in the description or both so I can let other people know not to do something that I did. And so you should also definitely check out either the description or pin comment before watching this and following any advice I give to make sure that none of it is detrimental.

And so lastly this video does go pretty fast and so you may need to pause occasionally to read things but hopefully it's kind of easy to understand and see what I'm doing for the most part so that is it and let's get into the build. Okay unfortunately for the first part, the installation of the fan, I don't have
the footage for it because it somehow got corrupted and so I literally have like the first four seconds of it that's all so I don't have any footage to show for this luckily the fan is not a hard part to do despite the fact that it's one of the first things you do and you have to cut a hole in the roof that's kind of a daunting thing.

It's really not that hard and I do have again a page on my website which it goes into an in-depth explanation of how to do that and the videos that I've seen other people do on installing a fan are pretty easy to understand so sorry about that but yeah I don't have the footage of that. So now we can finally get into the build. Alright so this part of the build I'm gonna have to explain to you a little bit differently because I didn't do
really any of it I had somebody help me with pretty much all of it and I just
watched and took notes. So I have a lot of notes written down so I'm gonna try to
explain as best as I can in a very hopefully easy for beginners to
understand way.

Now I personally recommend having somebody either do this
completely for you or at least having somebody who has some knowledge on
electrical/solar stuff help you out with it because this stuff can be very
dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. And if you are gonna do it alone
or even if you're having someone help you it's so important to read all the
instructions and the manuals that come with it because there are a lot of
safety things that you need to be aware of when you're handling this kind of
stuff. So the first thing that we did was we screwed the charge controller and the
inverter into place.

You also want to make sure that your battery is secured
on pretty much every side so that it doesn't go anywhere.
So mine, as you can see, on that side, that side, and that side it's pretty much not
going anywhere so I just put a little 2×4 piece here, nailed it in. And the
battery that I have is an AGM deep-cycle 125 amp hour battery. The charge
controller that I have came with the panels that I got it's a 30 amp I
believe and then this is a 500 watt pure sine wave inverter. The next step was
cutting the wires that go from the battery into the charge controller- the
positive and the negative- this side is where the battery wires go this side is
where the solar panel wires go and these wires came with the panels and charge
controller kit that I purchased. So one end there's like a metal circle with a
hole in the middle and the other end is just a regular wire and so cut it to the
right length and then leave extra room you know you don't want it to be super
tight and then cut off the plastic at the end about a half an inch, twist the
end of the wire, unscrew this with a screwdriver, put those in, and then re
screw it.

And all you need to do at this point is put them into here you don't
have to put them onto the battery yet because you'll just do that once you
have all the wires ready and so then after that the same thing you can do for
the inverter, which again, these wires I believe come with the inverter
and so these ones have circles on both ends and so just unscrew these caps, put
the wire on, rescrew them, and then leave these unattached from the battery
terminals until later.

pexels photo 3768898

The next thing we did was screwed in this ground block
just to the wheel box and then we unscrewed these two terminals here and
we also unscrewed the two battery terminals and so then you just want to
take a wire- I do not know what gauge this is but you want to put little
circle ends on both of them so some wires you might get with the panels
or the inverter might come with the circle ends already on them but you can
also purchase these as just little ends and you can crimp them on. So for this
wire you want to put one on each end this for most terminals I believe will
be a very small circle and this will be a bigger circle. And then once this is on
there you just rescrew that back in and so then the two things that I was going
to be wiring back here are the lights and the fan and so the fan has two wires
which both of them were wired back here and one of them- the negative- put a
little circle end on there and it went on there.

And then for the lights, what I
did wrong but this is the right way to do it you want to wire the negative to
the light switch, which is right there for me, and the positive you want to wire
back here. And then for my light switch, I also had a ground wire which- you don't
have to know what that means- it's just an extra wire that goes on there.

So
there's two fan wires coming back here and one wire from the lights going there
and one way from the lights going here and then to wears from the switch going
here. And so we put small circles on the end of the ground from the switch, the
negative from the switch, and the negative from the fan and put them all
on to that terminal. And then of course screw this back in once you have all three
of them on. Aow the fantastic fan comes with a fuse built in but the lights did
not so we had to cut the wire, take off the plastic ends about a half an inch and
twist them and then put them into this fuse holder and put a 7.5 amp fuse in it.
In most of the builds I've seen people will either have a fuse panel-
fuse box- or they'll put fuses in between like the controller and the battery, the
battery and the inverter and I think, you know, from the research I've done that's
probably the most safe way to go so that's what I'd recommend doing but the
person who helped me do this didn't do that so..

Once you kind of have all your
wires cut to length you can start by putting the two wires from the inverter
onto the battery always make sure positive is going
positive negative is going to negative. You can put the wires from the charge
controller to the battery onto the terminals and then the two fan and light
wires onto there, make sure they're all secured down and then lastly you want to
cover your solar panel so that no energy is coming into them and then put the
wires from the panels that come down from the panels here into a charge
controller the same way that you put the battery wires in.

And remember to rescrew
these in not too tight though but just tight enough so that they don't come out.
And then what you'll want to do is make sure that this light matches what kind
of battery you have so it's hard to tell but it's actually faintly orange because
the battery I use is GEL (maybe? I think I changed it later). Don't know what any of those mean but there's
sealed, GEL, and flooded types of batteries and so you want to press this
button to make sure that this light is either green, orange, or red depending on
what kind of battery you have.

So then to kind of recap all the wires… on the
positive terminal of the battery we have a wire going into the inverter, we have
this wire which goes into the charge controller, we have the positive from the
fan, and we have the positive for the lights. On the negative end we have the
wire going into the inverter, the wire going to the ground block, and the wire
going into the charge controller. From the charge controller we have the two
going to the battery and the two coming from the solar panels. On the ground
block we have the wire going to the negative terminal of the battery and we
have the negative from the fan, the ground from the light switch, and the negative from the light switch. So this is the finished product. This is what the ceiling looks like and
the walls are not perfect, it's kind of hard to tell on camera but there are
some flaws here and there. Back there it's kind of rough. Here is finished kitchen and my fridge
over there, got my shelf back there, my water jugs, a ton of stuff just kind of
shoved in there.

My sink and faucet which leaks, which is great. Here is my bed and
the little cabinets that I made for it. This is the flooring, got a nice little rug
for it but that's what it looks like all finished. And then here in the back
I really didn't try to make this look pretty at all. Here the door panels… and all my window covers. So my original goal was to try to spend under $1000 on the entire thing including the price of the van and since I bought
the van for $5,000 I wanted to spend under $5000 on the
entire conversion and everything that I would need like pots and pans and
repairs and all that kind of stuff. So I kept track of every penny I spent along
the way and I divided all of my costs up into two different sections: one for the
conversion and one for things that weren't necessarily part of the
conversion but were things that I bought for the van so part of that extra
category would be things like taxes, title, license, registrations, a repair
that I had to get on my brake lines I think, things like a USB fan, a solar shower, kitchen related items, national parks
pass, a backpack, all that kind of stuff is extra but I wouldn't have purchased
it if I wasn't going to be living in the van so that's why I included in there.
And all that stuff added up to $1,812.07 USD and then all the stuff for the build which is like the
flooring, the stuff for the walls, ceiling, the lights, the fan, the fridge,
the sink, the solar stuff, all of that added up to $2,953.14 USD so those put together would be $4,765.21 so then all together plus the $5000 for the van, my total cost was nine
thousand seven hundred sixty five $9,765.21 USD.

So I miraculously stayed under budget. I will be making a video in the future once I've been in the van for a month talking about my
first month expense,s how much I spent in that amount of time, and then also
talking about how much and how I saved up money for all of this. So that's pretty
much all I have to say, if you have any questions again feel free to DM me
on Instagram or email me but first check out my website page and if your question
isn't answered there then definitely message me, I'd love to help as much as I
can but like I said I'm not an expert on any of this. So yeah, thanks for watching..

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