Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

August 4, 2013


Some things I set up in my van have not worked out so well. So I change them and learn from the failure.

Cat litter box

My first attempt was to put the litter box under the bench but I quickly learned the hard way (a quick diversion to a laundromat) that there just wasn't enuf head room in there. My raised bench/bed made plenty of room and it seemed to work fine for one cat but the other one, who is a victim of the male's bullying, was too scared to put herself in what looked to her like a trapped position. So I got a small kennel on top of the benches and set up a little litter box for her inside there.That worked ok as long as I kept the boxes clean. But this trip, neither cat was willing to use the under-bed box. It might have just been part of the male's bullying to take over the kennel box but the end result was the female was an unhappy camper.

On the way back, I put a garbage bag on the back floor between the benches, laid a couple of pee pads over that and put the litter box in front of a couple of boxes of things. Just to see, I left the kennel box in place with a litter box liner but no litter. The floor box was used regularly by both cats but once, someone went in the bare kennel box. I put a little litter in there to absorb it but no one used it again. It really looks like I have to have the litter box in the open, more or less. I'm going to get one of those plastic carpet protector runners to put over the carpet back there. There's always something to address with 2 cats who hate each other. They are old now but are showing no signs of ailing since I started feeding them a raw diet.

Swing table

I put in a table with a swing around mounted on the side of one of the benches. It worked really well until this year.  Turns out the post that inserts into a sleeve in the swing arm just reaches the top of the arm. The sleeve has worn so that it no longer holds the post tightly and it sags badly. It would have worked better and lasted longer if the post rose higher than the arm so that the top would be held securely. My attempts at finding a new sleeve failed as the post is just a bit smaller than one inch.  I'm going to re-think the whole table design

Refrigerator Ventilation

I got an Isotherm marine refrigerator last year to replace the dead 3-way that came with the van.  I seem to have a van refrigerator curse as it decided to not work again this year. I did a fairly elaborate outside air ventilation for it using the old wall vents.  The problem is that the Danfoss compressor really should have air below 110F for ventilation. With the hot summers, the outside air is often just too hot for effective ventilation. I could feel the heat blasting in just from the vents. Plus the Reflextix insulation I used to block outside air from the inside of the van actually conducts electricity so I'm not sure but it might have shorted out some of the electrics.

The Isotherm is made to use inside air from the bottom going up the back and drawn thru the compressor by the fan which is located in the upper right side and then out into the cabin over the top. I used vinyl flashing to seal the the two wall vents and put insulation against that to seal out the hot outside air. I put two 3/4" slats under the refrigerator feet and took off the chute I made to bring the air to the top of the unit. That leaves about an inch of space behind the unit and the van wall rib for air to come up. I left the top open and used a decorative aluminum vent piece to cover up the hole. Surprisingly, the piece wedged into the top bracket and didn't really need any screws to hold it in place. While I wasn't able to test it out since the fridge doesn't work at present, it was a lot cooler inside the van by closing up the outside vents and insulating them.
New ventilation for fridge

Frustrated by the continuing problems with the new fridge, I decided to go ahead and get a chest fridge/freezer. I had planned on getting one eventually anyway so I could have a little freezer to keep a supply of frozen meat for the pets (I raw feed them). I put it right behind the passenger seat - a fairly dead area in the van. I picked up a Dometic CF35 unit at Camping World on sale. It was still more expensive than I could have gotten on the internet but I could go get it and have in place for my trip. It was a good thing I did since the repair piece the company sent me to fix the fridge did nothing and I ran out of time to mess with it.

The place where I wanted to have the chest fridge necessitated getting power there. I didn't want to have a cord draped over to the nearest 12V outlet on the upper cabinet wall next to the sliding door. That is kind of asking for an accident. As a stock thing, Sprinter installed battery cables under the passenger seat for an auxiliary battery.  Mine has the house batteries located in the rear of the van so under the seat is empty except for the cables. A quick check with my ohm meter showed that the red cable is threaded to under the driver's seat and is loose under there. Under the drivers seat is where the battery isolator is located.  All I had to do was connect the wire to the house side of the battery isolator and I would have a live wire under the passenger seat. The black wire was already grounded to the body of the van under the seat.

Of course that was more trouble than it looked.  It always is. The stud for the battery isolator connection is short. Too short to put another wire on it. I didn't want to risk under-sizing the wire or have to run a new cable so I used the 4AWG cable that was already there. I solved this problem by getting a short battery cable and connecting that to the battery isolator stud and then bolting all the wires to the other end of it. I cable tied it securely and ran a big shrink wrap over the connections to insulate them from any potential shorting to the metal. I didn't use heat to shrink wrap it; I just used cable ties to hold it in place.
Passenger seat - Outlet box and junction box that I put under the seat

Battery Isolator connections under drivers seat

That got me power to the cable under the passenger seat. Next up was to wire in a fuse to protect everything downstream. I used a small junction box for this purpose. I drilled two holes for bolts, staggered a bit to reduce any chance of wires crossing. I attached the negative wire to one and the red hot wire to the other. I ran one end of the fuse holder wire to the positive bolt and out an access hole in the junction box after crimping on a yellow hole connector. A lock washer and nut secured them to the positive bolt. The positive wire for the 12V outlet was connected to the other end of the fuse holder.  I ran the negative wire thru another access hole in the box. I screwed a box cover on the bottom to protect the bolt heads from contacting any metal and another one on top to close the box.

I got an exterior outlet box but found it was too short to hold the outlet. I got a box extender that worked. I cut a cover from aluminum flashing and cut the holes for the outlet and a switch. I crimped connectors and connected the switch in line with the outlet and connected all the negatives together. There was a screw hole in the rear of the seat pedestal so I used that to feed the wires thru.  I attached the box to the seat pedestal with rare-earth magnets. It stayed steady the whole trip.

The chest freezer worked very well. I was amazed at how much can fit in 1.1 cu. ft. I quickly learned that it could be a freezer on the bottom and a fridge for the things on top. There's a small section above the compressor that stayed at about 62F. That was good for things like butter. I had just learned that hot buttered coffee is quite good and butter is a lot easier to manage than cream is.

I haven't given up on the Isotherm refrigerator. They have a very good reputation for quality and it is under warranty for another 4 years. He says that sometimes the problem is in the wiring or contacts but when I connect up an 8 ga wire directly to the fridge, it still doesn't work. When it did work, it was really good. Got to go get my batteries tested to be sure they aren't the problem.


  1. oh, lord, Mary... all that technical stuff ~ couldn't follow but the cats? yes, I traveled wit two in Homer.

    Since I slept in the back, I didn't want to box back there. I fixed the space in front of the passenger side seat with a thick shower curtain... put the litter box over that. Made it really easy to just open the passenger side door... take out the litter box and shake out the shower curtain.

    I used the clumping kind of litter which made it really easy to put in a bag and toss in the trash.

    You're right they do not like to not have head room.

    Worked for me! in the 5th Wheel, I kept the box in the shower.

    1. Yep, and I didn't take many pictures of the technical stuff. I've used the clumping litter and it doesn't kill the smell nearly as well as the pine litter. My front seat has too much of a rise for the litter and I think it will have the same cornered aspect as the under-bed location. Glenn of To Simplify took out the front seat when he had his cat to locate a covered litter box. Mine has a pedestal so even that wouldn't work and I don't really want to do that. Plus they don't like the covered box either. These two are frustrating but what are you going to do? I cannot in good conscious do anything but my best for them.

      Funny thing this trip is the female took up sleeping on a bag in the very rear of the van behind the litterbox. You would think that would be a trapped position but she preferred it. It was as far away from the male as he likes to ride on my lap or in the step well on the driver's side door.


We love comments. Thanks for giving us your thoughts.