Van Upgrades

Upgrading battery power from 85AH to 200AH

The van originally came with a single 85AH battery which is sufficient for short summer wild camping or if hook-up is used, but its a little low for long wild camping breaks – especially with heating on.  We bought 2x 100AH carbon fibre leisure batteries from Outdoorbits and installed them both under the passenger seat running cable to the fuse boxes under existing standard Ford floor ducting.  Batteries are clamped in place with a ratchet strap.

We “over fused” the setup for maximum safety utilising 25/30A fuses between the batteries and before the ducting cable.  In hindsight it would have been nice to install a dual battery monitor but this would probably have been more of a gadget!

We also installed a Landrover Voltage Sensitive Switch which delays charging the batteries until the engine is running and the alternator is running and producing sufficient voltage.  In addition we added an “always on” 2x 12v and 2x USB device to ease charging needs.

The old 85A battery could have been left in situ to give 285AH but as it was 3 years old and would have different characteristics to the 100AH batteries we thought it wiser to remove.

Incidentally, the converters now offer 2x85AH or 3x85AH battery conversions – though – and unless you like fiddly DIY then this may be the better option!


As we were planning to take the van snowboarding and to undertake more winter wild camping we thought it prudent to winterise it more than it was.  This is a fairly simple job and unique per van – its basically insulating everything possible!  We insulated water tanks (see below); all external pipework (including waste that is run under the vehicle); and also fresh pipes that were run behind the fridge.  With the fridge vents removed we were able to stuff loads of gaps with normal loft insulation.  Our van lacked insulation above the fridge (under the sink) and we could stuff a load more to the left and right of the fridge and in various other gaps.  NOTE: ensure fridge has sufficient airflow for it to work – see your manual.

There was a very small gap in between some roof lining which (if you stuck your finger in) could get damp.  This was due to lack of insulation, so cramming more in there made it bone dry.

The final two winterising jobs were to add cab insulation and to modify cupboards to block draughts (see later)

External water tank heater/insulation

On the Cavarno range of vans, both the fresh and waste water tanks are external and with sessions in freezing conditions they are liable to freeze.  Using products from caktanks we removed both the fresh and waste water tanks and clad them with special tank insulation.  When camping in freezing temperatures we would simply drain the waste constantly into a bucket.

For the fresh tank we fitted a 12v (30W) thermostatically controlled water heater.  With the insulation this should keep the water ice-free down below -26′ which is absolutely fine!  As the heater is automatic it uses as little power as possible.  We did note though when driving through France the heater was needed whilst driving due to the wind chill on the tank.  The installation was simple and we have a fused 12v switch inside for simple active/inactive use.

Without this, the water would have frozen without a doubt.

Gaslow refillable gas

Our van was able to carry 2x 6kg propane bottles, but knowing we wanted to have long trips with heavy gas usage in places where compatible bottles were not available – Gaslow offered a solution.  This meant replacing the installed 6kg cylinder with a refillable cylinder (with 80% safety cut off).  We can also carry a 6kg calor spare just in case we run out of gas from the Gaslow.  However, with 2 gauges on the Gaslow systems running out is not going to be easy!  We tend to top it up at 50% for a cost of £3 (so £6 from empty rather than £21 from calor).  We have all adapters so can fill up from any LPG station – and so far we’ve had no problems.

When pricing the bits for the installation we noticed our supplier (Roy Wood Transits) could supply and fit – and as the external filler needed a hole in the body work positioned to just avoid other pipes we thought it wise to let them do the install for us!

Back Box (with camera)

This idea was a bit of a saga!  Whist the van has loads of storage (even for a 2 week holiday we didn’t fill it) – for a longer trip (months+) we would benefit from extra space.  For instance, where to store wetsuits; running kit/bottles; hiking boots; satellite; water bottles; extra clothes; laundry; outdoor chairs/tables; tools; spares; etc etc…..

So we had the idea of getting a back box.  However we have some problems!  We needed to ensure it fitted under the bike rack (as mountain bikes are essential!); and it needs to look reasonable.  We found nothing on the market suitable.  Either they looked naff; don’t fit in our space; are top opening; or are unsuitable for other reasons.  So the only option was to design and build our own!!

We bought a bak-rak which is a perfect and strong tow-bar mounted platform.  There are a few on the market, but this was the cheapest and the guy who sells them was very friendly and very helpful.  So we bought this then worried about what to put on it!  Clearly weight was an issue so we opted for 2mm aluminium with internal reinforcement.  A friend knew a company who could make this, so he turned my sketch into a detailed manufacturing drawing, and also added internal strength and extra folds where he envisage weak points.

Ultimately the company he used made a great box, bang on spec and dimensions, and my friends enhancements and requests were implemented in full.  The box mounts well onto the bak-rak using 4 u-bolts, and is clipped to the bike rack for stability.  It is solid as a rock and should be very safe and steady.  We reckon the box is c. 25kg, and so probably have 75kg legal carrying capacity – though I envisage 20-40kg maximum usage.  Internally we can strap boxes or other items in with premade holes and bungee cords.

The lighting was from a cheap tow-sure trailer board stripped to parts and re-cabled.

We have also installed a second waterproof socket that carries video-signal and reverse power/earth to the box to mount a second reverse camera connected to the existing internal LCD mirror I have.  The easiest connection for reverse power was to connect into the cables in the offside rear cluster and follow the same cable run as the existing towing cables.

LED lighting

The van was well lit, with the living area having 5 halogen and 1 strip light, with 2 additional strip lights in the kitchen and one in the bathroom.  We found though that the halogen spots got very hot indeed and zapped the battery power.  We replaced the 2 halogens in the cab with LED’s and then changed the 3 remaining halogen fittings with directional LED lights which all use around 10% of the power.

Some people don’t like the LED colours but we find them absolutely fine for both reading and general lighting.

All parts and fittings were supplied by Oleary Motorhomes

Cruise Control

The 2000-2006 transit didn’t come with cruise control, though with 2007 onwards it was an option.  We decided we wanted it as we knew we were going to have lots of long drives.  We had an after-market electronic solution installed by Conrad Anderson.  This has been pretty good and faultless and makes long drives really quite relaxed.  The van has plenty of power for hills without needing a down change, so the controls can be set and left meaning much less long distance fatigue.

1 thought on “Van Upgrades”

  1. Absolutely ingenious ideas from yourself and others who have commented here. I especially like the 12v battery idea for the water tank and I will be using the idea myself. Many thanks and keep writing.

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