Useful Modifiations for anyone

Night Alarm

After reading the forums about what can happen overnight, especially at Aires or wild camping, we thought we needed to do something about security.  I am not a fan of making anything like a fortress.  If someone wants to break in, they will.  And if it is a fortress they are likely to cause more damage than anything else, and also escaping in a fire is going to be difficult.  So we decided rather than to fortify, we’d ensure we’d wake up if anything did happen….

In a van conversion, we are fortunate all doors activate the interior light.  This means there is an existing circuit in place to detect any opening of any door….

So, we installed a simple switch and 12v buzzer utilising the interior light cabling.  Simply work out which wire goes live when doors open (and light is on), and which is earth.  Stick a switch and buzzer in line with this – and hey presto, when armed (switched on) – a loud buzzer sounds when a door is opened.  Simple!  The buzzer pops in the roof void (and is glued to stop rattle) and all you can see is the discrete switch.

Changing stereo to habitation battery

Generally, vehicle stereos are powered off the vehicle battery.  Some only work when the ignition is on, and some (like our Ford CD6000) will work for an hour only with ignition off which can be annoying.

When we installed our larger habitation batteries we cabled the stereo directly to the habitation battery (fused of course).  In addition we installed a relay so that we could emulate the “ignition” feed from the vehicle battery.  This then provided exactly the same functionality but using the habitation batteries.  However, we also installed a bypass switch in one of the blanking plates so that when switched, we can fool the stereo that the ignition is on and hence it can stay on for as long as we want.  The switch makes it possible to use the 1-hour sleep mode as well as have constant-on if needed; and when “off” the stereo behaves exactly as if it was still connected to the vehicle battery.

In addition we have installed a 3.5mm jack input to the stereo for MP3/movies

China/Pan tray

The Van from new comes with the end cupboard being designed with a moulded plastic area for melamine plates etc.  There is no specific storage for saucepans or glasses.  A slight oversight – I mean – where else can you put the pint and wine glasses????!

We spec’d the van without an oven, and had this area converted to a cupboard with a static shelf and enough room underneath for a spare gas bottle.  This shelf was okay – but a pain to get to and get stuff out of.  So Mel had a brainwave which I had to implement and thus I made a tray that is fully removable and slides fully out making it all accessible.  Its based on our home china set (bye bye melamine!!!!) and can store:-

  • 4 x dinner plates
  • 4 x side plates
  • 4 x bowls
  • 4 x cups
  • 2 x 1 pint glasses
  • 2 x wine glasses
  • 1 x Frying pan
  • 1 x Large saucepan
  • 1 x small saucepan
  • 4 x cutlery (knife/fork/spoon/teaspoon)

The space is designed to hold all items in situ whilst travelling via “snug” fit, and also some elastic bindings.  Roy Wood Transits kindly supplied the gray material that covers the unit (and matches other areas in the van).  The shelf is at such a level that the gas bottle can remain in situ as originally required, and this meant the dinner plates have to sit “low” and hang out of the bottom of the shelf!  A simple bolt holds this in place snugly for transit.

The design was a pain in the butt, and it took hours to make :(.  However the improvement is superb, and frees up a cupboard and makes the most of available space.  I would recommend the builders to make and offer something similar but perhaps with a plastic moulding which would be much easier to make (sadly I neither have skills or facilities for this).

Shower Curtain

When we are out and either wild-camp or the site facilities are poor or non existent, we happily use our internal shower.  Full marks to the van designers, the shower is superb!!  Shame we can easily empty the tanks 100 times over as we do like our showers!!  However, as it is, we can both happily shower with the amount of hot water we have (okay – its wet/soap/wet/wash/wet/rinse rather than a good soaking!!)

However, this has a few downsides.  Firstly it wets everything which then needs cleaning; it also wets the toilet, and to be fair I do not trust the toilet sealant as it had to be replaced twice; and finally the bathroom door leaks and leaves a wet patch outside the shower room.

(I hasten to add, the new model cavarno has a different toilet and a better designed door, so our issues should have been designed out).

However, for us – a simple solution is to install a shower curtain.  This is neat, tucks out of the way, and a cleaver mod of the shower rings means the runner is right at the top of the room and the curtain still fits inside the door lip.  The curtain covers the door, toilet, and enough wall space to make 1/10th of the mess of a previous shower.

In addition, it also means we can hang up our wetsuits on the curtain rail and heat the bathroom to dry them out!!! And STILL keep the bathroom usable!! Bliss – much better than putting them on cold and damp the next day!

Cab Insulation curtain

The habitation area is fairly well insulated and we have winterised it as much as possible.  However, the cab area suffers from single-glazed glass; un-insulated doors; air vents; and a floor that is directly on the chassis.  As such when it is cold outside and windy the cab can become cold and make the whole van cold.  On hookup this isn’t an issue as the electric heating is powerful, but when wild camping it is a bit of a pain.

In addition, our van is fairly stealthy, but with cab curtains drawn its obvious we’re sleeping in it!

The solution we’ve implemented is to have a black double layer (cotton & fleece) curtain across the cab area.  After a few versions the latest is fully velcro’d around the perimiter and is draught-proof.  (you can still climb into the cab through the curtain overlap).  From the outside the van just looks empty and is discrete. 

This curtain makes the habitation area much warmer when its cold outside, and though we loose the two “captain chairs” we just turn the lounge into 2 sofas which is absolutely fine.

2 thoughts on “Useful Modificaitons”

  1. Hi, really enjoyed your blog. We have just purchased a Cavarno 4 on a 2010 plate. We are setting off to Spain on the 15th October, driving down through France which we have done many times over the years. We liked the Cavarnos build quality & layout & it suits our needs at the moment as we have an old caravan in Spain which we stay in for the winter. The Cararno gives us the option to tour on route to & from Spain & also use as an everyday method of transport.

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