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A simple water system for camper vans.

I always wanted a really basic sink and water system. No holes in the side of the van for a fill port, removable jugs for filling at filtered water stations, no tanks outside the van to freeze. I wanted an electric water pump. Combined with the fact that I decided I’d be OK boiling water rather than installing a complicated water heater system, I was able to put together a super cheap and functional setup for my van’s kitchen.

My van has come and gone, but I adventured for 50,000 miles over two years in it — which puts me in a great spot to reflect on what I wanted and what I changed over time.

This was the first “system” that I could call done in my build, despite the fact that I’d not even completed the cabinetry yet. My system used a single 6-gallon jug for freshwater and another for greywater. This is about as simple as you can get, if you can live with the limited capacity.

I made a hole in the jug’s cap and pushed vinyl tubing through it to the bottom. For the greywater, I made another hole for the trap hose and sealed around it on the inside with RTV to prevent odors. This wasn’t necessary for the freshwater hoses as they fit incredible tightly into the holes I made in the caps.

What I Ordered

Cold Water Faucet
Bar sink with cutting board insert, grid, and basket strainer
Camco Flexible RV Drain Trap
Seaflo 1.2GPM 12v Water Pump (I’d consider this one if I were building today as this Seaflo is quite noisy with no accumulator, though it works fine @ half the cost!)
2x 6 Gallon Water Containers (I used Ozark Trail jugs, which were fine, but these look sturdier and the price is similar)
3/8″ ID Flexible Vinyl Tubing
Stainless Steel Hose Clamps
PTFE Thread Tape (Remember, white is only for water – no gas pipes)
Fitting for hose to faucet connection: Take the faucet to a hardware store and find a fitting threaded for the faucet that converts it to a 3/8″ barb. I did not make note of this — and the reviews state 3/8″ female compression, but I recall having trouble when I ordered that size. Save the hassle and take it in with you. Let me know what you find out!

What I changed after 2 years..

I gave into the temptation of having 12 gallons of freshwater once I started living in the van full-time. What I did was replace the greywater jug with another 6-gal for freshwater. I re-routed my drain hose through the wall, into a garden hose splitter, fittings, and finally to 3/8″ vinyl tubing that would either drain greywater through a hole in my van’s floor or divert it to a smaller 1.3-gallon holding tank.

I’m not the environmental police, but obviously I have to state that you should be very mindful of what, if any, soaps/detergents/toothpastes you’re using when greywater is dumping onto the ground. Just don’t be a dick, basically.

Here are a few photos — but, for the most part, my initial system remained in-tact. To this day, the only real thing I’d tell you to consider is a water pump with a built-in accumulator (or adding one separately). This setup — the pump will run anytime the faucet is opened, and it’s not quiet.

My water system after 2 years. Note the trap drain now runs into the next cabinet over. I simply switch the lids between jugs when I empty one.
Camco RV drain mounted on the wall, with spigots leading to a hole in the floor as well as a 1-gallon diversion tank for use when dumping was not appropriate.

Additional things I bought for this greywater diversion system

Hudson Exchange 5L (1.3 Gallon) Water Tank
Garden Hose Splitter
90ยบ Garden Hose Elbow (3/4″ Thread)
Garden Hose to 3/8″ Barb Fittings
(from here, you can use the clamps and tubing I linked for the original system)

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How to change oil in the V6 3.7l Ford Transit

There are only two reasons to change your own oil in the woods: money and the satisfaction of doing something yourself. That said, my van is a year old and has over 40,000 miles on it. Dealerships are slow and charge over $100 for a full-synthetic change. The Transits ship with a synthetic blend oil and are rated for 10,000 miles between changes. I changed over to a full-synthetic on my second change and haven’t looked back. Changing the oil as I do, with full-synthetic oil and a high-mileage oil filter can be done for half the price.. but you’re left to deal with disposing of the old oil, and you’ll always make a mess.

Required Tools and Supplies

Original Oil: Motorcraft 5W-20 Synthetic Blend
Upgrade: Mobil 1 5W-20 Full Synthetic

You will need 6 quarts total, I usually pick up two jugs at a time. Heads up: you can generally find the oil at least 20% cheaper at a Wal-Mart.

Original Oil Filter: Motorcraft FL500S
Upgrade: Mobil 1 M1-212A (20,000 mile advertised life)

Basic Socket Set (you’ll need a 3/8″ socket wrench and a 15mm socket)
Oil Filter Wrench (disclosure: i haven’t needed this, but if you can’t get the filter off by hand, you’ll be screwed without it)
Oil Drain Pan
Disposable Gloves

  1. Warm the engine up.

    Get the van up to temperature and park it for a while. 30-60 minutes is fine, this isn’t rocket science.

  2. Get your shit together, son.

  3. Open your oil fill cap to prevent vacuum.

    It’s marked with an oil can logo and “5w-20”

  4. Locate and remove the 15mm drain plug. Loosen and remove, but be ready for the stream of hot lava.

  5. Grab a Snickers. This will take a while, depending on how warm your engine was.

  6. Replace the drain plug once the flow stops. Tighten until it stops, then give it a nudge. There’s no need for this to be super tight– it has a gasket. Don’t strip your shit out. Locate the oil filter and spin off. Beware: it’s messy.

  7. Get the replacement oil filter ready.

  8. Lube the gasket.

    Depending on how well you wiped everything clean, this may or may not be necessary. I take a bit of used oil and lubricate the gasket of the new filter.

  9. Install the new filter.

    The threads should catch and spin on easily. If not, keep trying. Do not force anything – stripping threads here would be an enormous headache.

  10. Fill ‘er up! I recommend pouring in the 5qt jug and half of the single quart to begin.

  11. Replace the fill cap, start the engine.

    Get it up to temperature, then park on level ground for 15-30 minutes. Check the oil. If the level is lower than the middle of the crosshatching on the dipstick, go ahead and add the other half quart. You’re not always going to drain all 6-quarts and it’s better to be underfilled than overfilled.

  12. Dispose of your oil properly.

    You can take the used oil to any auto parts store or recycling center for free.

  13. Reset your service indicator. This may vary based on what kind of instrument cluster you have, but the procedure is the same.

    Put the key in the “ON” position and hold your brake and gas pedals down until the “oil and wrench” icon starts flashing. Should be 15+ seconds.

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Resetting the Ford Transit TPMS system

Image result for tpms light

TPMS is really cool, when it works properly. As much as the old geezer in me wants to say that it’s just as easy to bust out a gauge and check tire pressure manually, it’s not. My van does not have the “message center” in the instrument cluster. All I have is trip, odometer, and miles to empty.

After 6 tires, 2 flats, and 28 thousand miles in 7 months, I have learned my way around the Transit’s TPMS. I air down my tires on trails enough that this reset tool has paid for its <$15 price tag several times by now.

Tools Needed:
TPMS Sensor Relearn / Reset Tool

While we’re on the topic, I regularly use this deflator tool, this Viair 88P portable compressor, and this tire plug kit. Looking back, I should have invested in on-board air rather than making the portable work (it was just slow). I have the ARB CKMA12 for the 31″ tires on my Jeep and it’d work well for the sizes running on Transits — though the CKMTA12 would be much faster, if budget allows. If you want to stay portable, but still have a faster compressor — the Viair 300P kit would be an excellent upgrade over the 88P, at about half the cost of the ARB CKMA12 I mentioned.

There is a method to reset the TPMS without this tool. It’s ridiculous and involves deflating all four tires. Just don’t, seriously. There’s also a method of using this tool that involves some procedure of key-on-key-off sequence that is also unnecessary.

Here’s how I reset the TPMS system with this cheap tool:

  1. With the key in the ON position (but engine not running), press and release your hazard indicator button six times quickly, cycling the hazards on and off three times total. Your horn should sound for a moment. Prepare to walk outside of the van and visit each tire in this order: Driver Front, Passenger Front, Passenger Rear, Driver Rear
  2. Take the tool and hold it near the valve stem on each tire as pictured below, press the button. The horn should honk within 3 seconds. If not, reposition and press the button again.
  3. Once the horn honks, proceed to the next tire in the order mentioned above (Driver Front, Passenger Front, Passenger Rear, Driver Rear) and repeat the button press process.
  4. After the 4th honk, return to the driver’s seat and turn the key to off. The system should be reset and the TPMS light will be off at this point.

I can’t find solid documentation of exactly what value the TPMS system uses. I found a Ford article specifying that running other tire sizes will require different PSI, so my educated guess is that it just compares the average of the tires and looks for anything out of the ordinary.

I recommend checking your tire pressure periodically, especially if you do any off-road driving. Tire shops would always inflate my tires to 60-65 PSI and I found that way too harsh, even on-road. I carry an inexpensive digital gauge like this one for routine checks.