Are you wondering how the ambulance camper conversion is coming along, or if it’s still ongoing, or if we’re even still alive? It’s been a while, sorry! We’ve actually done a tremendous amount of work, and made some changes to previous interior and exterior systems, since the last build post: Ambulance Camper Conversion – Phase 3 – Interior Planning.
You see, apparently there’s a balance between work and play that we haven’t quite figured out yet. Many videos on YouTube show 4-6 week builds and I guess we’re just not that dedicated or motivated since we’ve been working on this for two years now. Unfortunately, we’ve hit “build-out burn-out” several times in this process and have re-done the interior three times now. We’ve definitely found out what works and what doesn’t, so hopefully this is the last version of the interior! In my opinion, it’s much more fun to camp in it than to work on it…
For those of you that are new here, we purchased a 1999 Ford E450 7.3l powerstroke ambulance/fire and rescue vehicle from a local fire department to convert into our tiny home on wheels. We’re trying to break free from the “norm” so that we can travel full-time. This post will explain where we currently are in the build process.
The biggest exterior change is that we’ve singled up the rear duals. Now we don’t pick up rocks between the rear tires when off-roading and our “footprint” is smaller on tighter trails. We went with Method Race Wheels – 17″ NV HD and Toyo Open Country MT 37×13.50xr17 tires. This was the only wheel/tire combination that we could find in a 17″ rim that would support the weight in the rear of the ambulance. For those that are unsure of your weight, we used the scales at Love’s gas station because they provide the weight for both the front and rear axle separately.
The gears were swapped from 4.10’s to Yukon 5.13’s to accommodate the larger tires and to make it up mountain passes. We went to Colorado and New Mexico prior to the gear swap and were very disappointed in the EGT and transmission temperatures when attempting a pass, so this was a necessity since the mountains are constantly calling us.
The bumper was replaced with an Aluminess, installed a Sherpa 17,000 lb winch, removed the front light bar as well as the exterior lights around the box. Jeremy used the aluminum from the cabinets that we cut out of the interior to fabricate covers for the exterior lights. He originally used 3M VHB in hopes it would create a water tight seal, but they leaked. Next, we used rivets to try to draw them tight, and… they leaked as well. What finally worked? Eternabond sealed them from the inside and we haven’t had any other issues.
Most of our system was purchased from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. They were extremely helpful both during the order process as well as answering any installation questions that we had. Our solar system consists of:
1080 watts of panels on the roof: three LG panels of 360 watts each
400 amp hours: four Battle Born 100 amp hour batteries
Victron MultiPlus inverter and charger 2000 watts
Victron SmartSolar MPPT 150/100 charge controller (right center of photo)
There are many other components, including bus bars, quick disconnect switches, fuses, distribution panel, battery combiner, etc. I won’t even try to begin to explain the installation. Jeremy worked his way through it and it took much less time than I expected. One of the best resources we can recommend is Explorist.Life. Nate has poured an incredible amount of time into creating diagrams, instructional blog posts, and YouTube videos to thoroughly explain each step of the installation process.
Quick note: do NOT skimp on ANL fuses. This 250 amp ANL fuse overheated to 300+ degrees and did not blow. We never would’ve known had we not been inside and smelled it. Jeremy quickly replaced it with a Blue Sea Systems fuse and we haven’t had any issues since. Do your research and buy quality products so that you don’t almost burn your camper down…like we did.
We originally copied the YouTube couple the Everlanders‘ water system, but ended up changing to the traditional RV water system. They use 5 gallon soda keg canisters charged with air pressure so that they don’t have to rely on a water pump. Our set up was installed in a temporary manor and kept rubbing holes in the air/water lines. The soda kegs are also an inefficient use of space in our application.
Fresh water: 50 gallon tank that we purchased from Tank-Mart – installed under our bed. Other components: Shurflo 12v RV water pump, Shurflo Accumulator Tank, Shurflo strainer, and an outdoor shower box.
Gray water: 20 gallon tank that we also purchased from Tank-Mart.
To ensure that we don’t have leaks, we used Pex A Uponor for the water lines and PVC for the sink drain. The sink is a deep bar sink that we purchased from Lowe’s and the faucet is a VC Cucine purchased from Amazon.
The water heater is a Camplux 4 gallon and works very well.
Dry Toilet (aka Composting Toilet)
Our decision to purchase the Air Head Composting Toilet was due to the smaller footprint than the other brands. We also don’t want to have to empty a black water tank. This toilet separates the urine from the solids so that sewage is not created. We use Peat Moss as our composting medium in the solids bin. It has a small computer fan that continually pulls air through the solids bin to dry out the compost. The toilet comes with a two gallon urine tank; however we had to empty this every two days, so we ended up plumbing it into the gray tank with the sink waste water. We used a HepvO one-way valve to ensure that no smells come up from the gray water tank. Jeremy had the ingenious idea of building a compartment for the toilet that unfolds in a way that is useful and creates a bit of privacy.
We opted for additional counter space over a dinette. Due to this decision, Jeremy installed swivel seats to open up the floor plan. We can now use this space as our living room and our dinette. Both were purchased from Shop4Seats.com.
Jeremy completely rebuilt the platform bed so that we could store our fresh water tank underneath in the back and he moved the Snowmaster Fridge to the other side so that we can put drawers on the opposite side.
Forced air heat is provided by an Espar D2 diesel heater with the altitude kit that we purchased from Heatso.com- and it has not disappointed! We originally tried a radiant heater and it didn’t cut it below about 50 degrees. An insulated ambulance box is exactly like a cooler.
The ceiling is pine tongue and grove. Amateur tip: don’t paint the planks before installation. We wanted to make sure that no condensation made it’s way through, but painting the planks prior to installation makes for a very frustrated, unhappy hubby trying to force fit the tongue and grove…
Thanks for reading!
Whew! That was a lot of information and I didn’t go into specifics at all, so if you have any questions, feel free to comment! We sincerely appreciate your interest in our build.
Simplify. Get outside. Live intentionally.