Some time back I had replaced the original rusting fridge vent for a stainless one with a 12volt socket incorporated. This was obviously an upgrade, but since I had installed my solar panels we have not had to use electric hook up and this will be the case for the foreseeable future. The knock on effect of this is that we don’t have a 240volt option for charging phones tablets etc. So the single socket we were relying on in the stainless vent just wasn’t enough. It looked nice, but function was more important now.
Seeing the Campervan Culture ‘multi socket fridge vent it looked like it would answer all of my prayers. The grey is a good match for the later Westy interior in the Atlantic, and installation was pretty straight forward, daisy chaining one socket on to the next with the main feed from the leisure battery (fused at 20A) .
So here is my installed unit with a splash of red from my braided USB cables courtesy of the Pound shop (they were £1 before you ask 😉 ). We have only done a couple of weekend getaways since installation, but it’s already come in really handy!
Knowing I had the extra space below the new Waeco Fridge , and not wanting it to just get used as a lazy storage area where things would get crammed and look messy, I decided to make a drawer. This was always my intention, but rather than be prescriptive and methodical from the outset, this had to be fluid in its design. Basically the slide out chopping board established the height the fridge needed to sit in the aperture available. It wasn’t until I had fitted the fridge that i knew the depth i had to play with for the drawer. The ‘hole’ has been handy to store some tools for the last month or so, but items like these that should only get used occasionally, are far more suited to a less accessible area, freeing up this space for things that get used in a daily basis.
So the draw….Initially I was thinking of a drawer on rails. In fact i brought two pairs of rails, one for the chopping board which are utilized and effective at present, and the second set for the drawer. However, the slide out action of those particular rails is such that they only extend about 30cm out. For a drawer that has a depth that goes back far further than that it didn’t seem like an effective use of space if you can only access the front portion of the draw. There are other rail systems that extend out double the length of the rail, but these tend to be quite deep in design and would take up quite a lot of the already limited space, making the draw a lot narrower.
So the solution was a far simpler one than having to mess around with rails. We found a very low profile storage box that had an insert for the top portion allowing small items to be segregated. Things like fuses, light bulbs, remotes for devices etc. The bottom part was shallow, granted, but this would be for our tablets, blue tooth speakers etc. We brought the box from Rymans, and if I am honest it was a bit of a stab in the dark in terms of the size . I’ve got a pretty good eye for judging space and to me it looked too deep, which actually turned out to be the case. However, when the lid was taken off it fitted perfectly. So we lost the lid, which probably would have become a bit of a hindrance anyway.
So the basic elements can be seen here.
It doesn’t get much more complicated than this and it took me best part of an hour to construct. The drawer handle had been brought at the same time as the handle for the slide out chopping board. The white thing in the photo above is the aluminum sheet with its protective film on (which was a slice of a larger sheet that a friend got me for another project). All that was required to complete the construction was a small spacer to bridge the gap between the internal tray plastics, and the extruded strengthening elements surrounding it. This came in the form of a piece of hardwood that I found in my wood-store. Two holes were drilled in the Aluminum, wood and plastic tray to marry up with the holes on the handle. The screws for the handle needed cutting down a fraction, but all in all it was a really simple process.
This was all knocked together without having access to my van as it was in storage so I wasn’t 100% sure it was going to fit. I had used the original Westy fridge as a reference as this was in my garage, and a few photos of my fridge install from my phone. However, I was relieved to find that the drawer fit perfectly 🙂
At present the drawer is no more than a push under tray with a suitably matching front fascia on. I will most likely stay in place during transit, but I have acquired some very small, high power magnets. I plan to stick a couple of these on the back top edge of the aluminum drawer fascia, and a small countersunk head, ferrous metal screw at the corresponding edge of the framework on the lower fridge support. This should allow the drawer to locate shut with a nice crisp click 🙂
My main reason for upgrading my fridge was due to the fact I had established a very effective Solar Install. It seemed silly not to take advantage of all of that free energy to power a compressor fridge. This type of technology is far more effective than the stock fridge at doing it’s job. It actually has a dedicated freezer draw which is great for Ice Lollys on a hot day 😉 .
Anyways, on to the installation: I wanted this to sit just below the slide out chopping board as I wanted to maximize the depth of the draw I am going to fit below it. So after some careful measurements i set to positioning a couple of pieces of angle aluminum to sit the shelf on. The shelf was then made by two pieces of marine ply. The first was the full width and depth required to seat the fridge on. The second was a slimmer piece with two holes drilled into them where the two front feet of the fridge will locate. This will stop the fridge from sliding about as there are no real fixings as such everything is having to be bespokely made. The two pieces were glued and screwed together and painted grey.
After this i needed to find something that would provide padding either side of the fridge to wedge it in place. I wanted this to be something that wasn’t going to get affected by damp or humidity, but provide a nice gentle compression on either side of the fridge. After some time i decided that kneeling pads would be just the right depth to bridge the gap (the sort of thing you get for gardening). These cost me £1 each from Wilko . These were sprayed black at the front and they were screwed to the inside of the fridge compartment (two screws at the front and 1 at the back. each screw head had a large washer on it to pull the padding in and I tightened the screws up enough so that they sunk in and didn’t catch the fridge when being slotted in. The heads were also covered with a piece of insulation tape to be ion the safe side.
Here you can see the fridge in place:
From here on it was just about trimming the surrounding area. I brought angle aluminum from B & Q and cut and drilled to size. I had to make some bespoke brackets to mount the whole lotso it wasn’t straight forward. However, i’m pretty happy with the end result
This has then been connected directly to the leisure battery with a 5 amp fuse in line. I really need to get an additional fuse board fitted as there are way too many connectors tacked on to the battery at the moment. I will seek to have this done professionally to get things tidied up
PS. There is a gap either side of the fridge of about 5mm. The finished photo here doesn’t show that and is a little miss leading. I feel this is enough of a gap to let air circulate and stop any rattles through vibrations
Anyways, here is the finished article after the lower draw is fitted.
My decision to change the stock 3 way fridge for a 2 way electric model meant that I would have a lot more space to take advantage of in the same space. I saw a post on social media where somebody had put in a pull out chopping board, and although it was not executed very well the idea stayed with me.
So I set to looking for the components to full fill my ambition. My wife and I went to IKEA one weekend and I saw a chopping board that was made of bamboo. I knew it would be too big for the aperture it needed to fit, but I was fully aware that I would be very lucky to find something that would fit perfectly without modification. A few days later we went to the local B & Q store to get the rest of the components.
Over the course of about four days I sawed drilled and screwed these items into something that looked like it would work.
And this is the end result.
I think this will prove very useful. In a van that has very limited space, it’s things like this that will make all of the difference. Just need to get the fridge installed now. Watch this space 😉
Westy Specific (but may help owners of other conversions)
My reason for replacing the original fluorescent tubes for LED was purely down to the fact i had completed my solar install and wanted to increase my efficiency and reduce my ties to electric hookup. I had previously brought a 300mm LED light to test the water last year. This was unbranded and didn’t claim to be warm lighting. I didn’t mind at the time because the way I saw it i could use the one light when off grid to reduce the power we were using. However the tube was very bright to the point where we didn’t really want to use it unless we had to. Since i brought my van, and time has gone on, i can certainly see the benefit to the ‘warm glow’ LED lights.
All of that said, the one LED i had installed above my sliding door was still fitted with the ballast controller designed to start the old fluorescent tube. This decreased the efficiency & brightness of the LED light. So after receiving my new tubes from Campervan Culture, i saw the advisory note on the packaging to bypass the ballast. So I started to strip down the light unit and tried figure out what this meant. After a dismally failed attempt at getting the wiring right i decided to create a user guide for the Westy owner that may want to complete this modification. This may be helpful to owners of other conversions, but i can’t say for sure. I would imagine the basics are the same.
The first thing to do was to isolate the power supply by detaching your battery. As standard these lights run off the starter battery so that’s the one you need to detach. (Note: Modifications can be made to run these lights off the leisure battery so bear this in mind if you find your lights are still working after detaching the engine starter battery). After this you can go ahead and remove the light unit from the ducting.
There are three lights in total. One is above the sliding door and the other two are on the opposite side above the cooker and rear table. All are unscrewed in the same way. Firstly the two black knurled plastic lugs are removed with a flat bladed screwdriver. This allows the clear lens to drop out. This also gives access to a cross head self tapping screw pictured below. Remove these whilst supporting the light.
The light on the right hand side above the sliding door can be disconnected by detaching a couple of spade connectors. Unfortunately the two on the left of the van reveal no such connectors. So for these two the cables must be cut to remove.
So this is the back of the light on the work bench. It soon becomes apparent that there is no way of progressing this without removing the pop rivets that hold the unit together. I did this using a pillar drill. However, a suitable workbench and careful use of a drill should suffice.
You can get away with drilling out only the three rivets pictured above. The two outer rivets will enable you to remove the ballast enclosure from the lamp, and the center pot rivet secures a transistor to the aluminum housing. Use a drill bit to take off the head off each rivet being careful not to drill too deep. Once this is done the whole of the ballast unit should be able to be removed far enough away to use a bradle or small gauge screw driver to push out the rivet body and release the aluminum from the ballast electronics.
Next detach all of the wires that connect the PCB ballast to the wires using a soldering iron! So this is what we have removed …..
I will say at this point that i did actually drill out the last remaining rivet holding on the long aluminum strip covering the long wires, so the images below reflect this and may not represent what you see. It allows you to see the wiring a little more clearly in this guide. I would recommend leaving it in place.
The rest of the guide is just a case of taking what we are left with and putting it all back together in a way that works with the new tube. Ignore the color coding of the wiring from now on. Basically we need to provide a positive and negative connection to each side of the new tube / bulb. Using the wires we have de-soldered from the ballast, strip back the insulation on the two longest wires by approximately 1cm so there is enough wire visible so you can twist them together. Solder them together and then solder the spare light blue wire onto them in turn. Cover the join with heat shrink. This can be seen in the picture above (the long cable in the lower half of Image 1.)
Next do the same to the opposite end. Strip the wires back, twist together and solder (Image 2). After this connect these two wires to the on / off switch and heat shrink to insulate the connection (Image 3).
The jury is out as to which way you go with this next part. I don’t actually think this is really necessary to re-attach the aluminum box that contained the ballast electronics as there is really nothing left to protect. However, i decided it was going back on if for no other reason than to keep the cables from getting trapped between the lamp and the ducting whilst fixing to the van. Taping in place would achieve the same objective i guess but for the sake of a couple of rivets I chose to fit the casing. I covered the inside of the aluminum with insulation tape just to be on the safe side to stop the wiring on the switch from shorting out on the metalwork (belt and braces). I used a braddle to create the two holes in the insulation for the pop rivets.
Next i found appropriate sized pop rivets from my multi pack collection brought from ALDI . I will try and establish which sizes i used where, and feed back. So the below image shows the cover connected after feeding the positive and negative feeds through the small hole with the grommet.
So the unit it basically built up and should work with your new LED tube. Just re-connect to the wires in your van using solder and heat shrink…If the bulb does not work turn it over and re-insert. LED’s will only work in one direction.
and screw back in place
The lights should use less power than before and be slightly brighter as a result of loosing the ballast. 😉 .