Road Read – Shore Power Inlet Install 1/21/17

Some electrical work got done today. Not enough to get any electrons moving around. In fact, I didn’t get any actual wiring done. However, it is never a small task to cut another hole in the van. This one was not close to the size of the roof vent but was absolutely substantial. This was a 2 7/8ths inch hole for the shore power inlet.

I took some pictures of how I did the process and hopefully this will give some ideas to those that need to install an inlet or something similar.

Interior. Left side. Just behind the wheel well.

On the interior of my van, there was section on the left side that was different than any other part of the interior. This interior section was cutaway to obviously allow a direct access to the exterior wall of the van. This was where I thought the best location for the hole to be drilled for the power inlet. I measured the overall dimensions of the interior cut out and then found center and marked it with a silver Sharpie. The silver Sharpies are amazing and just about critical when working on a black surface. The interior of my van was originally silver but the Lizardskin insulation that I sprayed in is a matt black and black Sharpies just don’t show up.

Another cool trick is to place a magnet over your center mark on the interior. Then find the location on the exterior of the vehicle by holding something ferrous near where the magnetic field is. This way you can check the location of the of the center point prior to drilling. I wanted to make sure that I was working with the flattest surface available in order to get the best seal against moisture possible.

Next, just drill the pilot hole. For my Marinco Inlet, I needed a 2 7/8 inch hole. So after drilling the pilot hole, I covered the area that was going to be drilled with painters tape. This is an important step as it will be very helpful in reducing or eliminating paint chipping as the hole saw does its work.
Now you have a hole and need to drill the additional mounting holes if you inlet requires them. This was basically the most difficult part for me. I spent a lot of time trying to take measurements that would make sure the inlet was parallel to the lines of the van. After repeated attempts, I finally got it close and just settled on rotating it to where it aesthetically looked best to me. Once you have it where you want it, drill a hole and then place a screw in the hole before you drill the next hole. This will make sure all the holes line up.

Since my application is was only attached to the wall of the van, I wanted to make a back plate and spacer to provide a more secure anchor for the inlet. I had some different plates of micarta. I cut the hole and drilled the holes and attached it to the interior. This may not have been necessary but it did seem to make the attachment to the van more secure.
Before you install the inlet, make sure you have covered all the exposed metal with paint. I may go back and add a thin layer of 3M Window Weld to the back of the rubber gasket just to add an additional layer of protection from rain seeping in.

Also, make sure you attach your wires to the inlet prior to tightening all the fittings. Once mine are tightened, you cannot get to the screws to secure the wires.

Overall, I am please with how the inlet turned out. Once I get the final wiring laid out, I will probably create a more solid back plate. There are some additional pictures in the Photo Gallery.

Let me know if you have questions and keep the course!


Road Read – Enjoy the Moment and the Process 1-20-17

Sometime you just have to be thankful for any progress at all.


As I sit here at the beginning of 2017, I am forced to look back with a bit of retrospect on the progress that has been accomplished this year. I can say with certainty that I am not where I thought I would be on this project.

If I have learned anything this year, it is that everything takes longer than you think.

I feel like this applies to so many things in my life right now but it probably applies most to the van endeavor.

Over the last month, I have spent a lot of time over at my Dad’s house. It is a 45 mile one way, hour plus trip without Houston traffic and can be a lot longer when you try to get home when everyone else has the same idea. We often get started before 6 and never later than 6:30 which means I am loaded up and out the door before 5. I always stop by Whataburger. I figure the offering of breakfast sandwiches is the very least I can do for keeping him away from his other duties.

Over breakfast, we always discuss what we want to get done. It usually is a pretty good list. Something like:

  1. Finish the battery / fridge box.
  2. Build the end caps for the bed / couch and get them routed for the T-molding.
  3. Bevel the overlap pieces on the bed frame.
  4. Sand the spot that is causing the bed frame to stick.
  5. Build the shelf for the water containers.
  6. Build a temporary panel for the wiring console.
  7. Figure out console locations in the panel.
  8. Get the cable entry plate location determined.
  9. Drill roof for cable entry plate and prep for installation.
  10. Install cable entry plate.
  11. Build additional shelves in galley.
  12. Determine location of Inverter.
  13. Determine location of interior lights.
  14. Run wire for lights from breakout box future location to light location.
  15. Drill holes for battery run from batteries to inverter.
  16. Get rails cut for the solar panels.
  17. Shorten bolts for solar panel rails.
  18. Mount solar panels on roof to get drill locations.
  19. Go have lunch.
  20.    …
  21. ….You get the point.

At the end of the day, after 16 to 18 man hours, we are lucky if we can cross one thing off the list. And we realize that we never even stopped for lunch, or if we did, it was a quick bite and the only time we took a break for the entire day.

This example is absolutely real. Just getting the battery / fridge box close to completion took a lot of time. It look amazing and if incredibly solid. All the joints are glued and the entire thing is screwed together. All holes are predrilled, then counter-sunk before the sides are checked for squareness and screwed together. The box is beautiful and far better than anything that would be in a prefabbed camper. But it is still one item in a long list that doesn’t seem to get any shorter since we are always finding new things that we hadn’t thought of. And it is still not completely finished. I need to construct a bracket to keep the fridge anchored to the box. This will keep the fridge from tipping when making turns.

I am constantly amazed at how good my father is with this stuff. He has been a phenomenal woodworker and craftsman for decades and every time we work together, I feel like school is in session.

Everything takes longer than you think.

I have gotten to spend quality time with my Old Man that I would have otherwise not had. I have learned so much. Even skills I already had have been refined and honed a bit. I will never be the craftsman that he is but I am a lot smarter than I was when we started.

Everything in the proper order. Here, some Thinsulate and Reflectix insulation has been installed so I can see how much room I have for some wiring for lights and solar.

Progress is being made. Regardless of how slow it is, it is still progress. Things will get done and items on the list will get checked off. So if there are lessons to learn here they are first, give yourself a lot longer than you think you are going to need for precision projects. Example – The battery box needed to be very solid. It is supporting the fridge, which is 65 pounds along with the estimated 35 pounds food that will  be in it. It is also holding the batteries. Each one of these is 65 pounds. Even though all three of them are sitting on the base of the box, that is 195 pounds of weight that will be held in place beneath the fridge. Second, and I have talked about this before, perseverance is going to be necessary.

But there may be more than that. Every once in a while, I found myself less concerned about having the box finished or the inverter installed or worrying about how to layout the galley and more focused on enjoying the moment. Enjoying the process. Enjoying the good company. I remember that this whole thing is a project and while it is not moving as fast as I had hoped, it will get finished and I will want to be able to look back on it with good memories and not as just a stressful job.

New temporary floor is in. The old one had gotten wet and taken a heck of a beating with all the holes drilled in it while determining spacing. Final floor will go in just before the final install of furniture. And this stuff was cheap at 14 cents a Sq. Ft. Just took some time to get it done.

And to be honest, I have not put as much time in it as I thought I would on a weekly basis. Regardless of intentions, daily life stuff and obligations continue to happen. Even this has a bit of a silver lining in that I am afforded more time to think things through and investigate options and various ways to do things.

I guess I have come to a point where I am comfortable with what progress has been made and okay with the speed at which things are going. This paradigm takes some of the pressure off and allows the whole thing to be a bit more fun.

The weekend is almost here. Time to get a few more things knocked off the list.

Stay the course,