Darryl.Richman's picture

I finally finished all of the mods I've been trying to get to in my van, and I think it's ready to go.

I started this final push yesterday. I had to screw up some courage, because the first thing I had to do was dismantle the cab. I needed to remove the plastic covers over the B pillars, with their entanglement in the seat belts. This was needed so I could run extension cords up the B pillar and through the small opening at the top, hidden behind the roof liner, that provides wiring access behind the bulkhead to the cargo area.

And I had to remove both seats: in the pedestal of the driver's seat is the entry point for all of the interior electrics. The passenger seat had to come out in order to mount the right side wheel chock (and, it turned out, the inverter, too).

I created mounting points for the two wheel chocks I have just had floating around in the back for the last year and a half. This was pretty easy: I bought two big U bolts, drilled two holes on either side of the bulkhead near the floor, and put the Us through from the cab side. Each U then captures the upright square tube near its base. I can unscrew two nuts and remove the chock when I don't need it, so it's very quick and easy.

The bigger — much bigger — project was installing the inverter and extension cords. I bought an inverter installation kit, which is basically three 8 foot lengths of wire; two are 4 AWG (for the positive and negative sides of the battery) and one is 8 AWG as a chassis ground. I also got some cable protector tubing.

I planned to mount the inverter on the bulkhead wall, partly behind the passenger seat. This gives a good view to the input and output LEDs and provides easy access to the USB charger it also has. The input is in VDC, showing the state of the battery and/or alternator if the van is running. The output is in Watts @115 VAC. As this is a 1500 Watt nominal inverter, it is the equivalent of a regular 15 Amp house circuit.

I duct taped the two big cables together and to a length of steel rod, which I used to thread the cables down through the engine compartment and under the van, following the path of the main wiring harness. From under the van I was able to then use the rod to push the cables into the cab, past the rubber seal. I carefully measured to get enough cable to reach where I wanted to mount the inverter. Eight feet turned out to be just the right length for the whole job — glad I didn't need a few more inches!

The wiring kit comes with a couple extra lugs for the 4 gauge wire, which one is supposed to crimp on. I have a crimping tool... for electronics work... which is good all the way down to 12 gauge (it claims). Not enough for the 4 or 8 gauge I needed to crimp. I searched at 3 hardware stores, an electronics store and finally, at the second auto parts store, they had a crimping tool. Claims to be able to crimp 0000 gauge wire! This is not a pliers-like tool; it's more like a vise. You put your wire with its lug in place into the base, which has a rounded form, and then you lower a ram that has a truncated cone on the business end against the other side of the lug. Then you hit the thing with a hammer, and if you do that hard enough, then the little scale on the side of the ram will show that the crimp is good.

I have a handy 4 lb. sledge, and that hardly budged the ram. I ended up putting the whole shebang into a vise, and, abetted with a cheater!, cranked it down. That worked well.

At the end of Saturday, I finally had the power end wired up to the inverter, and the inverter mounted. I turned it on, the blue light glowed and the fans ran briefly. The voltage showed as over 12.5V, and when I ran the engine, the voltage was at 13.5V. I plugged my new Horror Fright flourescent drop light in and it turned on. Yay!

Today I needed to face the hassle of installing the extension cords. I already knew that the openings in the bulkhead were not big enough for either plug end of the cords. So, I cut them in half, threaded them through the bulkhead openings and then put them back together with butt connectors on each wire, with shrink tubing around the whole thing. To test each one, I actually plugged my heat gun into the extension cord and used it to shrink the tubing on the cord.

I also did a load test, running the air compressor, the overhead light and the drop light, all at once. It showed a load of only 400 Watts, so I have plenty of reserve.

About 2pm I was just buttoning things up — still time to take the R52 out for a spin. I installed the plastic cover back on the B pillar on the driver's side, which is a pain to get all of the locking tabs lined up, as well as getting the seat belt height adjuster connected correctly, then popped it home and reinstalled the door weatherstripping. As I was working on doing the same thing on the passenger side, I noticed that there was something wrong with the height adjuster mechanism. The release lever was not catching on the track to hold the belt loop at different heights.

I could have just put it back together, and the passenger would have to deal with the belt always being at its lowest position...

...but I disassembled the adjuster mechanism instead. There were only three pieces: a spring, the plastic lever, and a small, stamped piece of steel about 2" x 1" x 1/8" thick and shaped roughly like Italy. As they were already loose, it didn't appear that there was a particular orientation. You might think that it couldn't be very difficult to figure out how to put three pieces back together again, but I played with the pieces for about 45 minutes and could not make it work!

So I went inside and had a look at the Sprinter forum. (Isn't that what you do when you can't figure out the solution to some problem?) But no joy there. More useless was the parts manual. It's difficult for me to believe, but true nonetheless, that Mercedes' drawings have less detail, and less assembly information, than BMW's recent parts fiche drawings. In this case, the entire height adjuster, track and all, is one assembly. It made me think that it would be good not to lose any of the little pieces.

I had only one choice left. I procrastinated for another hour, but I didn't have one of those rare flashes of brilliance. The sun was beginning to descend in the sky. There was nothing for it: I went back out and openned up the driver's side B pillar and then disassembled the good height adjuster.

It turned out that Italy was installed upside down, with the toe of the boot point out. In the same way that enzymes have pockets that match up to a small stretch of the proteins they operate on, the plastic lever has a pocket that accepts the toe of the boot. The top of the boot, which has a slight step across it, is the part that catches in the rail.

I carefully reassembled the driver's side adjuster, then the passenger's side unit. Then I put the plastic pillar covers back on, getting the fussy adjuster covers lined up on each one.



The run

Bob Straubinger's picture

I found out thru Voni that you were going to be in the Run and I know you will have a ball doing this. I'm going to be in Monterey until the 13th but will have to leave for Arizona then. It would have been serious fun to be there when you roll in but won't be able to make it.
Have fun!!!

Sorry to miss you, Bob. I'm

Darryl.Richman's picture

Sorry to miss you, Bob. I'm here in Santa Cruz until August 31st. Paul is going to be here on the 30th. Then we're driving back in the Sprinter. I'm afraid that the northern route we're taking is never going to get close to AZ...

--Darryl Richman
"Bling is not made in Germany" --OTL, 12/05

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