Choosing an awning for your Sprinter

Sprinter van with Fiamma F45 awning extended

Although there are lots of awning manufacturers out there, the choice for Sprinters is limited by their height and the ways you can attach the awning to the van.

There are four main types of awning;

  • Retractable ones that roll up into an aluminum or plastic case bolted to the vehicle.
  • “Patio” style ones that are like a big roller blind with the legs bolted on to the side of the vehicle (like on larger, older RVs).
  • Fold-out ones that often zip up into a fabric case attached to the roof rack.
  • Stand-alone tent style awnings that clip on to the side or back of the vehicle when they are assembled.

The most common type to find on a Sprinter are the case style, sold either by Fiamma or Dometic. There’s a reason for that, which we’ll explain below.

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What things really void your vehicle warranty?

Mercedes Sprinter extended warranty brochure cover crop

A while back we made a joke about voiding the warranty on the van by cutting a hole in the roof. Some people took it seriously and we still get questions about what really is OK to do on a van conversion without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.

The short answer is, it’s completely up to your dealer and Mercedes what they say they will cover or not cover, but knowing what the manufacturer warranty claims to cover and knowing what the law states about warranties is a good starting point for any warranty-based claim you might need to make.

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Why did Mercedes put the trailer wiring box so close to the Sprinter’s receiver hitch mount?

Bully hitch mounted step just clears the factory hitch wiring box

Good luck trying to find a locking trailer hitch pin that will fit in the tiny space that Mercedes leaves at the side of the 2″ receiver mount.

Receiver hitches aren’t common in Europe, so maybe the German engineers got a little confused about how they are typically used. When we added a hitch mounted step to our van, it was hard to find a locking pin that would work.

We ended up making a 90 degree pin lock but ever since then we’ve contemplated just moving the electrical connector for the hitch. Problem is, it’s not easy to know where to put it.

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DIY Conversion vans are always a prototype

Design drawing for cabinets
pro·to·type (ˈprōdəˌtīp/) noun: 
(1) A first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied.
(2) A DIY conversion or adventure van, from which new layouts are continually developed or evolved.

 

We “finished” our conversion about a year after we got the van. By that point we had all the systems in. Either to our original design or to the design that we made up as we went along that reflected our real-world usage better. We didn’t necessarily have everything tidied up (we still don’t!) but all the components worked.

Now though, after using the van for a while, we want to make some changes. We don’t know quite what we want to change, or how we’ll do it, but we feel there’s potentially a better layout, a better storage setup, a better way of stopping water tanks from freezing over the winter, and a better way of freeing up cargo/bike space in the rear of the van.

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Monitoring battery state of charge (SoC)

Battery graphic

Cheap battery volt meters don’t give you good insight into how full or empty your battery really is. Without knowing the true state of charge you can damage your battery and seriously shorten its life.

If you’ve priced out proper battery monitors, you might have experienced sticker shock. Although you can buy a LED volt meter for under $10, true battery monitors cost a lot more – often around $200. Why? And what’s so important about using a proper monitor?

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