Uh, induction cooking. Wow, where do I begin? I am going to jot down as much technical information as I can recall for reference and future use. I've spent days just trying to decipher and understand all this, and I still feel hazy about it. Feel free to double check me, and let know if you see something doesn't look right. After that, I'll share what I have learned so far by trying to cook an egg. (You can jump to the next sections, marked as [INSTALLATION] or [TESTING] if you want to skip this part.)
Oh yeah, I chose cooking an egg as a way to test things, in part because it's a cheap and easy way to see roughly how well something like this works... and because I like eggs and know it's something I would like to actually be able to do.
* Ok, so the Prius gas engine sometimes self-idles to supply power to its electrical counterpart, the High Voltage Battery Pack (HV for short).
* The HV pack, in turn, provides power to the conventional 12 volt car battery, which provides the power to the car instrumentation and systems like any other conventional car.
* I think the HV pack supplies something like 100 or 110v, making it ideal to power the induction plate. However, everything I've read so far suggests that I should stick to the 12v battery instead. Less question marks, and really, no documentation on how I would even go about hooking up anything to the HV pack.
* Ok, so after some research, I read that one should definitely not try to draw 100 amps from a 12v. Separately, another Prius owner with an inverter has pushed as far as 75 amps, but stating that is pretty much the limit as he started to pop a fuse.
* The lowest wattage setting available on an induction plate is 600w. That means that it should only draw about 50 amps at a time, so this should work.
* The medium wattage setting is 900w, and that's when it requires 75 amp draw, and therefore should be avoided at all cost.
* I should still turn pretty much everything off when running the induction cooker, just to be on the safe side.
* However, the Prius should be left on at READY to help keep power supplied throughout its batteries. I also read that most 12v batteries should have a 45 to 50 Amp Hour capacity, and I highly doubt that I would ever need more than say 10 to 15 minutes anyway to cook anything. Nevertheless, it's wisest to keep the running of the induction plate as short as possible.
* I am using a 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter, with a peak of 2000 watts, to power the DC/AC conversion. This should be adequate for a 600 watt setting. It might even be OK for the 900 watt setting, although that would be pushing it, and I intend to stick with 600 watts anyway.
* As for peak power, I've seen other videos and sources showing that, during startup peak, the induction plate barely registered 1 watt for a second on a Kill-o-watt, so startup peak is definitely not an issue here.
* The inverter's user manual only recommends a battery draw of only 50AH from a 12v, so this pretty much pins me down to only 600 watts anyway.
* My inverter's user manual also recommends to ground the unit, but does not specify how or provide the wiring for it. I will have to look into how to do so very soon.
* The user manual on the NuWave Precision compact induction plate mentions that both the low setting (at 100 degrees F) and the low/med setting (at 175 degrees F) are rated at 600 watts, so these will be the only two settings I will use. The induction plate also has a setting button that explicitly sets the plate to only 600 watts, which is a good thing.
So, on paper, this should work. This also explains how David has managed to pull this off in the first place. Ok, so on to the second part and actually trying to piece all of this together.
Ok, so this is supposely an easy job. First, I am already fortunate enough to have the car battery be conveniently located in the rear passenger side seating, rather than under the car's hood like most other cars. Also, it's already exposed for use due to me having to build a bed, so, even easier.
However, my first hurdle was when I realized that the Prius does not actually use a normal 12v car battery. Apparently, it uses a smaller, custom glass mat battery all to its own. Consequently, the terminal post for the positive (red) end is a bit too big for the inverter's wire hole to fit. However, after double and triple checking that there is indeed metal contact from the side screw on the positive end, I decided to try screwing it there instead.
Doing so was rather scary to me, because every metallic contact I accidentally made, including from my ratchet tool to say the safety cage, would spark. I paused to check the internet yet again to make sure I am not going to screw this up or electrocute myself... and to find out why it's sparking so much. Apparently, I was suppose to work on the positive (red) end first. Then the negative (black) end. I only did the negative (black) end first because it was harder to reach but the wire hole fitted easily. Lesson learned.
Funny story, but at this point, my mom called me on my cellphone, asking me if I wanted something for dinner. The cellphone buzzing freaked me out for a second, thinking I just got electrocuted haha. Wow, it made me think I really should not be messing with any of this, but I was in too deep and wanted to see this through.
Finally, I got the inverter wired up, and very slowly and carefully, I powered up my car, then, I powered up the inverter, then I plugged in the induction plate, and well, next thing you know I am this crazy man sitting out in the drive way, cooking eggs out of a car....
Oh, before that, I did test the induction plate plugged into a regular receptacle and cook an egg there first, just to have a baseline as to what to expect under normal conditions. It was not scientific by any means, but I say the egg cooked in roughly 2 minutes under 600 watts.
Armed with this knowledge, I then cooked a second egg using the car and the inverter. This time, it cooked even faster, presumably because the pan was already warm from the first time. It basically worked like a charm. Nothing strange that I can tell happened. No strange fumes or smoke. Nothing sparking, failing, or dying. The engine didn't even cut on. I just sat there, silently, watching an egg getting cooked.
Another observation I would like to add is that the induction plate has a safety feature where if it doesn't detect the pan or pot in contact with it, it would turn itself off. Because of this, I can't pick up the pan to tilt it or flip the egg like I normally would with a regular stove. Well, to be exact, I think there is like maybe 5 seconds delay before the plate would cut off. I haven't counted, but the point is, the pot or pan should be left on the plate at all times. Unable to pick up the pan, I did the best I can to flip the egg, but it didn't work, so I was like OK scrambled it is.
About an hour later, I checked back on the plate, the inverter, and my car in general. I was paranoid and wanted to see if anything looked or smelled off. Luckily, nothing seems to be amiss. So far so good!
Uh, induction cooking. Wow, where do I begin? I am going to jot down as much technical information as I can recall for reference and future use. I've spent days just trying to decipher and understand all this, and I still feel hazy about it. Feel free to double check me, and let know if you see something doesn't look right. After that, I'll share what I have learned so far by trying to cook an egg. (You can jump to the next sections, marked as [INSTALLATION] or [TESTING] if you want to skip this part.)
My final major hurdle in the car project is my desire to build some kind of simple kitchenette. My goal is to almost never eat out unless I actually want to, and not because there is no way for me to cook. Plus, if I cook it, I know what I am putting into that food, and it will be cleaner and healthier than, say, ordering a fast food burger, have them cough into it, or drop it, pick it back up, brush it off, and give it to me without me knowing. It can save more money too.
The problem is, the more I looked into this, the less simple it looked. When it comes to cooking in a car, there are 3 basic options. All of them have their pros and cons.
1. Heating Element - Basically they look like these tool boxes but are really a small, enclosed heating space the size of a small loaf bread pan. Using a heating element
1a. Pros - It's dirt simple. Just put your meal in a bread pan, put that in the lunchbox, plug it into the cigarette lighter, and wait until heated to desired warmth.
1b. Cons - It takes a long time (20-30 mins) to heat foods. It will only heat up so much. And actually, I found out that these things draw 12 amps, which is 2 more than than what is available from typical sedan 12v cigarette receptacles. Meaning, it's only a matter of time before it trips a fuse or three. The alternative is to strap it directly to the car battery, but if I must do that, I might as do it for a more ideal cooking method, listed later. Also, space is limited compared to the others.
1c. Verdict - I decided to use this method as my last resort if all else fails.
2. Propane - Using some kind of propane cooker is what Bob (founder of CheapRVLiving and RTR) and many others use.
2a. Pros - Propane (or even butane) is cheap enough, will generate enough heat to cook just about anything, and using just about any cookery. Bonus is that a small Coleman propane tank shown in the pic above can also be used to power Mr. Buddy heaters during winter. It's also a fairly simple system to implement.
2b. Cons - Propane itself is a harmful gas in enclosed space, is a fire hazard where the entire car can theoretically catch on fire. Even if it is used safely, gas cookers can generate a lot of heat during use. Remember how heat is my enemy #1? Also, as a fire hazard, it can not be used indoors, and as an outdoor-only cooking method, it is also at the mercy of Mother Nature.
2c. Verdict - Bob (founder of CheapRVLiving and RTR) and many others insist that this method will work just fine, but even if it works perfectly, it's still going to generate a lot of heat that I am trying to avoid. I would also prefer to be able to cook in my tiny car, which I realize is asking for even more, on top of an already challenging build.
3. Induction plate - Finally we come to a very interesting option, which is the efficient use of an electromagnetic field that is converted to heat when it comes into close contact with an iron-rich pan or pot.
3a. Pros - Induction cooking is very energy efficient, enough so that it can even be powered by a 12v car battery at low heat settings. However, this should not be understimated as the heating is also super fast. Like, microwave fast. About 2 minutes or less and temps can reach upwards of around 100F to 175F. All without actually generating heat on its own (though the pot or pan will be very hot of course). Unlike propane or butane, the lack of any gas source means it can be used safely indoors. It's amazing, honestly.
3b. Cons - It's also, by far, he most difficult route to take. It means I need to be very aware of what the electrical systems and specs of every component in the entire chain, not just ensure that it can work at all, but that it can work safely. I can't just take one guy's word for it. Since I also have to assemble my own system, I have to know exactly what I am working with. Sadly, it's also the most expensive option in terms of upfront cost.
Also, I am concerned that this much wattage could accelerate the wear and tear on my car's battery systems.
3c. Verdict - It's by far the hardest route to take, but if it works, it could also be among the safest, most efficient, and most effective method to cook food. I just have to try it.
So, that's what I did. I ordered the induction cooker and some related components (such as a pure sine wave inverter) and gave it a shot, which I will detail in my next entry.
Ok, I'm still here, I still sleep in my car every day, and it's starting to feel a bit more comfortable so that's good. And yes, I'm still working on the car.
The past couple of days had been rainy so I couldn't quite continue with the next step, which is basically to spray paint the reflectix window panels. That was fine I guess since I needed more time to work on other details of this project.
Today, however, the weather is bright and sunny, even unusually hot at up to 85F. So I decided that it is a good day to get out there and basically see how well the whole setup work, even though I am not finished with it yet. Once again, heat is my #1 enemy, so I wanted to see what it felt like with me in it for an extended period of time.
I also added a couple of trash cans to work out where the trash and the dirty laundry would go. I don't have lids for these bins, but I am not sure how badly it may smell. If it's bad, I'll have to either build some kind of air tight lid, or find containers that have this feature.
Also, the window screens that I worked so hard on might not work. Amazingly, the military grade duct tape I used doesn't seem to stick to fiberglass mesh. Color me surprised, but yeah, there are whole strips that are just flailing in the wind here. I do have an alternate method I may try, but I also want to think some more on this. We shall see.
Finally, I accidentally broke the flexi-arm clamp that is currently holding up my smartphone. The clamp itself is plastic so it wasn't very strong to begin with. Will have to figure out another solution for this as well, or at least a replacement....
So yeah, here I am, parked under the shade, blogging and just hanging out with the parking lot geese.
But you know what? It's oddly relaxing.
Ok, so my current car is indeed too tiny, so I've started to look around for options. That's when I found this magnificent camper top:
Unfortunately, it may be a bit out of my price range. So, inspired by Chris from PriusOuthouse, I may follow his design and build this instead:
I understand the interior is a bit on the drab and simplistic side, but it will have to work:
While I'm here, I've been thinking about car security (and companionship), and while dogs make wonderful travel companions that can also double as your car's security system, I have a soft spot for kitties too. Some don't think they make great car security, but I am not so sure:
Don't those two words just glide effortlessly across your eyes? Like a sultry, smooth PB&J sandwich? No? Ok, it didn't exactly work for me either.
But that's exactly what I was tackling earlier today. You see, after priority #1 (the bed) and priority #2 (emergency toilet), the next priorities in line for me are... well... insulation and privacy!
First though, let me step back and share a bit of clarity and perspective on this particular venture. You see, cardwelling is nothing like RVing for example. They seem similar on the surface, but underneath, the two couldn't be more different. Whereas RVs try to imitate and offer the comforts of a traditional house, cardwelling is more of an exercise in motorized camping. The same kind of camping that involves tents, sleeping bags, camp fires, and trying to fit everything in a backpack.
Point is, due to the severe limitations involved, Cardwelling ends up being a glorified form of camping, and it is important for anyone who is intrigued by the idea, including myself, to realize what you are signing up for.
Case in point, there is only so much you can do to insulate a car. Most insulation is either too impractical, will cause mold, or is too expensive as an option. That is why many opt for a cargo van instead, because they are much more workable in that regard. For cars, most people just put up reflectix on the window glass and call it a day. Some don't even go that far, and just accept that they are indeed "camping" and choose to become quite intimate with Mother Nature.
So that's what I did earlier today, cutting out reflectix to my windows, and see if that will work for me as well.
This isn't all bad news though. You see, cargo vans have one serious Achilles' Heel, and that's the fact that they don't have a practical solution for air conditioning. A van's AC simply isn't powerful and energy efficient enough to cool the entire van. However, cardwellers armed with a Prius can! In fact, the smaller the space, the more effective using the built-in AC will be. Knowing this, that is why I don't mind the tight spaces.
The simultaneous benefit of this option is that it also helps to ensure privacy when I am inside the vehicle.
Oh, and I also put on a protective seat cover. It looks very nice. Ok, I'm going to stop rambling for the night.
Today's entry will likely seem absolutely no different from any other entries that I have written, but for me, there is indeed something very different about it. As I have already given it away, I am writing this entry inside my car.
Well, my car is still parked inside my garage until the pollen clears up and I complete my solution to ensure privacy.
But other than that, this entry is written on my smartphone, clipped to my car bed using a clamp with a flexy neck... and a bluetooth keyboard.
I am not sure if this is the best solution out there, but that is why I am testing it out by writing this entry. So, time will tell....
Other than that, I admit I haven't made much of any progress today. My official excuse was that I wanted to do some more research first, but honestly, I took some naps as I think not sleeping well the past several nights have finally caught up to me.
Anyways, this seems to be working, and hopefully, I'll have more to show for tomorrow. For now, I am going to head to bed.
Anybody have any ideas? If so, I would love to hear about it.
As my camper car project continues, it was inevitable that I would start to ponder this question, and if this... car... could be it?
My best definition of home so far... and I confess it's not much of one, but I think home is a place where, when you are there, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you have returned....
Right now, I have two beds: My old closet bed (hehe) and the new car bed (oh my). You know, just reading that, I realized that I may not be a "normal" person. I dunno, it's amusing to me at least. I may also be easily amused haha.
Anyways, I noticed that when I lie down in my closet bed, I physically breathe a sigh of relief. However, I have yet to do that with my car bed, even though I plan to exclusively sleep there from now on. In my mind though, the car is still this "other place" that I do not yet acknowledge as home.
However, as I got stuck in traffic today, it dawned on me that getting stuck in traffic was irritating only because I was eager to get home, whereas for VanDwellers, since they are already home, I imagine a traffic jam would be more of a minor inconvenience.... Hmm, could my perspective eventually shift like that as well? After all this, I sure hope so.
Anyways, I finally got some sleep last night in my car bed. It was kind of intermittent, only because a friend of mine texted me last night. Otherwise, I slept just fine.
I also built a platform for my toilet bucket today. About the only thing I can imagine worse than pooping in a car, is pooping in a car, on an uneven surface that could potentially topple the bucket over. Maybe. The space is tight, but even the remotest of possibility was unacceptable to me, and so, a sturdy, level platform had to be built.
Luckily, compared to the bed frame, this wasn't as difficult of a project, so I was able to get it mostly done today. I also snapped a couple of pictures for show-and-tell:
There are still some small additions or changes I need to make, so this isn't the final version yet.
And so, as the sun sets, I am settling into day 3 of me living in my car... in my garage. Baby steps. Oh, and please feel free to tell me your ideas of home.
Ok, so for whatever reason, I just couldn't sleep in my car last night. It's not the bed though. In fact, it feels really grand. Spending last night in it made me realize that this is literally all I need for a bed, and that even my regular twin mattress is bigger than what I actually need.
That being said, because pollen season just kicked up, and because I still don't have a built-in solution to maintain privacy from my neighbors, I decided to keep the car in my garage and sleep that way. Keeping the car in the garage also means having no AC or anything else because I would have to turn on my car, and that would cause Carbon Monoxide to build up inside the garage. So that's definitely not an option there.
Still, there are some interesting insights that is worth noting. For one thing, I am pleased to report that I didn't feel claustrophobic at all. When everything goes dark, it's really hard to tell at all how much space is around you.. that is unless I stretch my arms out. So, when I pull up my blanket, it feels the same as my regular bed does. The only difference is that there is a definite added "bounce" coming from the car itself whenever I toss or turn around.
Both the bed and the foam mattress still exude a strong odor. It's not a terrible smell, but I am not sure how to fix that, so I hope it will subside eventually.
I can also notice the subtle red blinking glow from my dashboard. It's kind of trippy to hold up my hand, and see it intermittently light up from the dashboard light.
Speaking of which, a potentially awesome thing that I can also do now is to be able to stick my arm out the side window whenever it rains, and feel the rain on my arm while still lying in bed. It's a shame my car doesn't have a sunroof, because this could be really extra awesome. I may have to keep this in mind in my future car.
Also, while lying there sleepless, something terribly important and ominous dawned on me last night: This car has to pass state inspections.
My car was due in April anyways, so before I continued any further with my build, I decided to just go ahead and get it inspected, and see what happens.
Because you see, I have done a lot of things to the car by the point, beyond just putting a mattress in there. I've also upgraded my headlights to LED that is suppose to improve safety by providing better lighting at night (while also drawing less power), as well as removing the front passenger seat, which caused my airbag lights to erroneously go off (hence the red blinking light), as well as installing bug screens on the rear windows that are duct taped in place, and last but not least is window tinting. Any one of these things can somehow fail inspection if not done properly, but together? Oooh.
But here's the crazy part: Out of it all, only the window tint did not pass inspection, and that was installed by a professional. In fact, I have one of the lighter tints they have in stock, simply because I insisted that my windows be legal.
Immediately after inspection, I drove straight to my tint guys to have the tint checked out, and if necessary, fixed. Tint guy tells me that they are absolutely legal, and checked it twice using their tint meter. I even took a picture as proof.
Tint guy then got on the phone with the inspection guy, and they kind of got into it, because inspection guy wasn't convinced, and in fact wasn't pleased at all when he saw me come back a second time, asking him to re-check my tint.
The inspection guy threatened to call DMV to have my car flagged and what not, but when he checked it again, lo and behold, it really did pass. Apparently, it was all the pollen on my glass that was skewing the results.
They were apologetic and all, which was nice of them, but I was just glad that this crazy contraction actually passed inspection. In fact, I was kind of surprised that literally not a single one of them even raised any questions asking about the missing seats and having a mattress in its place. I guess either they were used to seeing crazy interiors, or they just didn't want to know on a Monday morning.
Back to the bug screen for a minute, here's a couple of photos of them. It doesn't look like much, but they were a bear to install. It took hours, and at one point, I even cut my own finger with a box cutter. However, the result looked better than expected considering I've never done this before.
I think from now on, I'm just going to keep sleeping in the car and see how it goes.
Well, first of all, my new cot sheets arrived, and I washed them and fitted them to my new car bed. I bought new sheets, partly because I don't have any sheets that technically fits a cot mattress, and partly because I don't have any sheets that are black anyway. To celebrate the completion of the bed, I am going to attempt to sleep in it tonight. Hopefully, all will go well. Wish me luck.
With priority #1 mostly nailed down, let's talk about priority #2, which is an emergency toilet system.
Some RVers and vandwellers have a much more permanent bathroom setup for regular use, but me, I just don't have enough space. It's OK though, because it was never my plan to begin with to poop or pee in the car... if I can at all help it. Instead, my plan is to use public restrooms anywhere I can. Remember, unlike my fellow mobile compatriots, my primary goal is to save money, not necessarily be out in the remote regions of the wilderness in search of adventure, or to escape the so-called machinations of society.
Nevertheless, there may come a time (or three) where I may not have any choice at all, and will need a way to conduct #1 and #2, right in the car. Right. So, now, my focus has turned towards the construction of some kind of emergency toilet system.
As a guy, #1 is actually pretty simple. I can pee into a specially designated water bottle and call it a day. Hardly glamorous, but it will work.
However, for #2, that is going to require a bit more planning and construction. Most cardwellers actually put their "bathroom" on the driver's side rear seat. However, because of my car's hybrid setup, and because my car is especially small, this simply will not work for me. I've tried, and it's a no-go.
That leaves the only other viable space left, which is the front passenger area. Basically, it's what's left of the space between the bed and the glove box. The space is still incomprehensibly small, but after some testing using myself sitting on my future toilet bucket... well, this is literally the only space that will work. Also, there is only one way to sit comfortably enough-- side ways, facing towards the steering wheel-- that will allow me to do my business, hopefully not make any mess, while I continue mull over my existential crisis, questioning what on this blessed Earth am I doing with my life, sitting sideways, jammed inside a car, trying to take a dump?
For visual aid, I've included a photo to show how much space I am working with at this point. It actually looks bigger than it really is due to me having to jam through the edge of the bed on one end, and the edge above the glove box on the other. Oh and the floor is also uneven, so I will need to figure something out, while also keeping the bucket strapped down somehow.
Alright, let me go get my bed ready for the night. Wish me luck. I think I'm going to need it haha.
Ok, I think my bed frame is finally for-real done this time. I'm sure I probably forgot something somewhere, but for now, I can think of nothing further to do with it.
I sanded it down, and because my packet of non-toxic moisture sealant arrived in the mail today, I applied that as well. I don't think it's going to win any prizes at the county fair, but to me, it's a mighty fine looking table bed thingie.
A quick aside about this non-toxic sealant. First of all, it's just a little blue-gray bag of sand. I'm like really? This little bag of pixie dust can magically protect wood from all the harmful moisture and rain from the air? And I do what? I mix it with like up to a gallon of water with it? The very same liquid moisture that I am trying to keep away from my wood bed? You want me to slather and soak my entire wooden bed in it?
However, Amazon gave it hundreds of rave reviews, so what do I know? Also, I must've read the instructions at least three times, and that's exactly what it says. Ok ok.
As for sanding, it's nowhere near the finish of professionally-made furniture. However, I don't need it to be. I just need it to not stab me, while ripping small sections of the bed up and exposing it to moisture and rot. A simple palm sander was enough to get the job done.
Most of the burrs are gone, but I think I will still need to reinforce the edges with duct tape or something. We'll see though.
Also, I've placed an old yoga mat that I once bought from the dollar store in between the frame and mattress for further protection. Hopefully, it will also help prevent the mattress from slipping around too much.
Overall, the set up seems to be working quite well. However, I need to give the frame time to dry before I can really test it out.
Great news. I finished my bed today. Mostly. You'd think adding "table legs" would be simple, but because they have to support my entire body weight, I had to spend a lot more time and materials to make sure they were strong enough to do so.
Also, it doesn't help that a vehicle has so many weird curves that I have to work around. Every leg is a custom job, and that means having to lift the entire heavy board into the car, fit it, measure it, and pull it back out, install the leg, and put it back in to check the fit. The following picture is a good example of this.
However, by the end of the day, I finally did it, and decided to add the mattress to get a better idea of the end result. I hope you find this as hilarious as I do, because... I mean look at it. It's bonkers.
What I find particularly funny about the next picture is that I had to remove my arm rest to fit the mattress. Not having it was a bummer, but now, I can just use the corner of the mattress as my arm rest. Yes, I tested it out, and it's glorious.
Equally glorious is a bit of gymnastics I have to employ in order to transition from sitting in the driver seat to lying on the bed, and back. It's just too much fun... omg this would be insane if someone caught me doing it. Also, I have to learn to do it right so I don't accidentally hit the horn with my feet. It's weird talking about all this as a grown man haha.
The bed frame isn't technically done yet though. The next and perhaps final step is to apply coats of non-toxic sealants to the wood to protect against moisture and rot. It's an important health issue to address, and hopefully will give it a nice shiny sheen to it as well.
Oh yeah, and I am debating if I need to get a belt sander to sand it down. The surface is rough, but I wonder if I can just roll with this?
I've been working hard at hardly working on my camper project... haha it's my typical response when someone asks me if I'm working hard or hardly working... nevermind.
Anyways, I've been super methodical towards my build, and also working as safely as I can around power tools, so it's taking me days to yield what seems like very small amounts of result.
I think it also doesn't help that I've never tackled anything like this before. My knowledge of building anything up to this point has been trying to assemble IKEA furniture without stubbing my toe. No stubbing equals victory.
Plus, the design parameters are breath-takingly limited. Naturally, I do not want to spend a whole lot of money. That's a given.
However, there is another budget worthy of note, and that is the budget of weight. My car is already one of the weakest car engines out there, which means everything I build has to be as light as possible. In the same vein, I also want to keep my MPG as high as possible... which also means building as light as possible.
You know what's another thing that is at a super premium? You guessed it: Space. My car also happens to be one of the smallest vehicles on the road, which means it leaves very little to the imagination as to what can or can not be done inside it.
Oh, and while we're at it, I also want to make sure I have everything I need in the vehicle, all the while somehow make it all look as nice and homey as possible.
You just gotta love a good challenge in the morning.
So, I've decided to approach this project from a... priority standpoint. Like for example, having a good, solid, flat surface to sleep on is a priority to me. A bed will also take up the most available surface space, so building this right is critical. This is what I am working on right now.
Unfortunately, and especially with a car this small, there is just no way around it. The sleeping surface will have to go straight down the passenger side, more or less from the glove box all the way down to the trunk. Yeah.
Coincidentally, this also turns out to be the number one sleeping arrangement used by others who have done camper conversions themselves.
Like them, I am essentially making a custom-tailored "table" to support my torso. I originally designed and built a frame for my entire body, but then realized... wait... why does my legs need this much support? Just my torso will do. My legs will do just fine resting on the existing trunk surface. This will substantially reduce the weight.
Also in this picture, you can see me experimenting with foam insulation. I don't know if this will work or not yet. Time will tell.
Oh and that wood platform is suppose to be crooked like that. I found that doing so gives me the most amount of space possible without weird curves getting in the way. It is designed to fit a cot mattress later.
In this picture, you can see the platform with the leg portion cut off (and is currently upside down). I was told the oak plywood is among the strongest board I can get, and I tested that it can indeed support my weight. However, it's iffy and does bend, so I decided to reinforce with it with those wood beams you see here. This also gives me extra anchor points for the legs next.
So yeah, anyways, this is where I am right now. Not much to look at, but I haven't stubbed my toes yet!
Too excited/obsessed to sleep, so after some more online reading on how to remove car seats, I decided to take another crack at the front passenger seat.
Though the front passenger seat is only one large piece-- as opposed to the half a dozen or so pieces from the back seat-- it was nevertheless trickier. For one thing, I had to disconnect my car battery to prevent the risk of accidentally setting off my air bags or something when I disconnect the three sensor cables underneath the seat. Each of them were like unique 3D puzzles on how to disconnect them without breaking them.
On top of that, I still had to figure out how to physically unscrew the seats out, which was another interesting challenge. Not only that, but I also had to figure out the size wrench I needed. By the way, it was 8mm, future me. 8mm. Why can't they standardize this? Like make it... 10mm across the board?
Anyways, at last, I am triumphant:
And that concludes the strip phase of this project. With the car cleaned out and ready to go, now comes the real hard part, which is the build phase.
That will start tomorrow. I will take it nice and slow. Measure twice, cut once. Baby steps.
I spent the rest of the day stripping out the rear seats. Having never done this in my life, it turned out to be a bit harder than I thought. Eventually though, I did figure it out enough to get them removed.
Being such a pain to remove, I see now why a lot of camper builders avoid this part and decide to just work with the seats folded down. However, this wasn't really an option for me, with such a short vehicle, and the seats not being able to fold down completely flat. So I decided to give it a go at removing them. Never know until I try right?
Unlike normal cars, Hybrids have bulky batteries they have to place somewhere, and the Prius C have theirs under the rear seats. I can't move this stuff, so I will have to build my platform right above it. Doing so is not a safety risk though. I can't get it as flat down as you can with a regular gas car. Just another interesting bump to add to the challenge of this project.
Stripping out this stuff also helps reduce the weight of the car, although I have to admit, I was impressed at how light everything is to begin with. I guess it was necessary to maintain its relatively high MPG.
Another thing worth noting is that I hear more of the road now with the seats gone. An added higher pitched sound.... Not a big deal to me, but I want to make sure I note everything I can think of for future reference....
This includes noting that I used a 14mm ratchet wrench to unscrew all the bolts. The car battery would need 10mm wrenches instead, and I need to do that first before I figure out how to take out the front car seat to prevent the risk of air bags going off.
Anyways, I'm off to late dinner to think more on my next step.
Ok, so the first real step in my build phase is actually tinting the windows. I wanted to take it to the tinting guy without anything ripped out just yet, so I don't have to answer any awkward questions. So this became my step #1.
This is a really expensive decision to make, but at the end of the day, if I can't keep cool and maintain privacy, then this project is doomed to fail. Plain and simple.
Let me reiterate again that the summer heat is my #1 enemy. No matter how cold it gets here (in North Carolina), I can find a solution to fix that and stay warm. There is next to nothing I can do about the summer heat though, and stripping and having a fan on my face will only work for so long.
Heat is also the #1 reason why I chose a Prius to convert, because the Prius engine is so efficient that it is said to only need to idle maybe 5 to 10 minutes each hour to keep the vehicle's fans and AC running. Serendipitously, I just happen to be driving a Prius.
Window tinting, especially the one I selected, is suppose to passively but substantially reduce the amount of heat that comes in and gets trapped in the car. It also helps to improve privacy, which is another fairly important factor to consider.
A smaller benefit, but one that should not be ignored, is that it also provides superb UV protection, which can become a big deal if I am planning to spend a lot of time in this car.
Check out the result from the outside:
And here's the inside:
It's fairly subtle, but you can see it is indeed darker from the outside looking in, and yet, is almost undetectable from the inside looking out.
The final tidbit I'd like to say is that the tint can only be so dark to be street legal. This is the darkest that I am legally allowed to have.
Ok, on to the next step....
Ok, it's been months, but I still have not changed my mind. Things are kicking off now though, starting tonight, but will begin tomorrow in earnest. Tonight is mostly last minute planning.
In case anyone is wondering, this is what I will be using to convert into like a... camper car:
Yeah, I know. It's a Prius C. They are tiny, even by car standards... and their engines are weak, which means I have to be very careful about how much weight I add into my build.
To recap, if this somehow works, I get to start a new chapter of my life. If it doesn't, I still have a decent commuter car.
So yeah, this is going to be an interesting challenge....
Still very focused and determined to make this whacky vandwelling rigmarole work. However, I have since decided to focus on something even whackier than a minivan. Yeah... but let me start from the top.
So, in the Vandwellers' world, regular RVs-- even class Bs-- are generally considered the Hamptons with the McMansions. They are spacious, well-made, and can be as expensive as real stick houses. I've specifically avoided these due to its exorbitant cost, my not wanting to drive anything that big, as well as its lack of stealth. Simply put, RVs are out.
However-- and again, through the lenses of the vandwelling community's perspective-- people with "normal" large houses run Sprinter-styled tall vans. The main advantage is that they allow you to stand upright. I've heard that this is a big deal, but I am betting that I can go without it. Also, they are still big vehicles to drive, with bad fuel economy, and are not stealthy IMO. I've never considered them to be an option for me.
Which leads to the middle ground of the group, or minivan-sized vehicles, including standard cargo vans. I was heavily... and still am heavily leaning this way because it finally allows me to have a vehicle that can park just about anywhere, can be affordable enough, and offers superb stealth. Unfortunately, they still offer really bad gas mileage, even though honestly, I can live with that kind of cost....
However, within all this is a select sub-group of vandwellers that are called cardwellers, which as the name suggests, live in cars. Yes. Cars... but hear me out.
Ok, let's just go straight to the disadvantages, and why even within the vandwelling community, some may politely consider it a special kind of crazy. The most obvious thing is that the space is really, really small. Most, if they have a choice, would prefer to just have more space than this.
Also, many fall into this camp simply because they are so down on their luck that it's their only alternative to literally sleeping out in a park bench with newspapers as blankets. As if vandwellers don't suffer from negative stigma enough, cardwellers get it even worse.
However, there are nevertheless a small, select group of people who willingly choose and are successfully living out of their car, especially using what I would consider the king of cardwelling, the Toyota Prius.
The Prius is one of the most popular choices for cardwelling, mostly because its distinctive climate control works very much like a home thermostat. At the same time, its super-efficient engine cuts on very briefly to generate the necessary power needed to maintain that climate control. If you get the nicer models, you can also get one with a sunroof to vent out the heat, as well as built-in solar-powered fans that can run all day to help prevent heat build-up. All of that is on top of the already amazing fuel efficiency (for regular driving), and affordability (I am eyeing one right now at under $20k).
However, and I can't emphasize this enough... space is at an absolute premium. There's so little of it, that just about every build I've seen is about the same. There is simply no room for imagination. Don't get me wrong though, because I am OK with that. These are among the most minimal and practical setups I have ever seen (mostly out of necessity), which appeals to me.
However, I would also like a very nice looking build if possible. I want to try my best to make it look as comfortable and homey as possible with what is essentially a family sedan.
Is it possible? I don't know, but I am going to go find out.
Once again, Snafu cautions to take baby steps, and I completely agree. However, as far as baby steps go, the first is always the biggest, and in my case, no truer words has been uttered. That's because in order to vandwell, you have to have a... van.
Now, if you are already driving your ideal vehicle for this endeavor, then this isn't a problem, but for most, including myself, it means finding and BUYING a vehicle, which is a serious purchase no matter how you approach it.
In keeping with the sage adage of baby steps, I've decided to keep things super simple and super boring. I am also going to follow a well-worn path already tread by others, particularly by Mr. William Myers, who wrote a book entitled, "Convert your minivan into a Mini-RV Camper".
Ok, the bottom line is, I am going to throw a bunch of recommended camping gear into the back of a Toyota Sienna. That's it. Easy peasy baby steps. At best, this is a great starting point that actually has been tried and true to work. At worst, things fail miserably, but the good news is I will still have a reliable minivan to drive the family around, and have some extra camping gear to boot in case I am able to take a road trip. Bonus is that his recommendations does not require me to do any type of screwing, sawing, nailing, or wiring to start out.
Now, the reality of all this isn't lost on me in that I'm basically committing myself to be a homeless man living out in a van down by the river. There is nothing glamorous about this. However, I prefer to think of this as a continuing adventure and self-experimentation to push my own boundaries and comfort zone, and hopefully find a better a stronger and happier me in the process.
I mean, no matter what happens, this will always be one of those amusing, "Ha ha, hey remember that time when that crazy guy Tabs did that?" moment right? Or, like my closet escapade, which seemed so crazy at the time, succeeded so famously, it is now my daily routine. I mean, who really knows, but I say let's go find out!
Wow, ok didn't expect to get much feedback to be honest. I mean, talk about some late night ramblings on a strange topic eh? There's a lot more I want to say about this, so I am going to answer them here instead of in the comments.
But first of all, I'm still serious about this. I've already made up my mind. Things are already in motion, and a roadmap is being developed as we speak.
Anyway, to answer CCF, renting my house is definitely an option, though it would be less than ideal compared to selling it outright. Of course, if renting is the best offer I can get for now, then by all means, I will go with that.
Snafu brings up some great points, and please by all means, don't be shy about bringing up constructive criticism. I'm not going to get to where I want to be in life by dismissing reality. (Don't comment about Trump... don't comment about Trump.) I don't know if you already know this but the house is already fully paid for. So yes, although I will probably still take a loss, the final calculation will never be upside down somehow.
And yes... I am already prepared to take a loss. However, I would still like to avoid that if at all possible. That is why, again, I don't think I will be turning this around overnight. Instead, I am willing to give it two years to see if I can't get a reasonable price for it.
Two years is also roughly what I am thinking it will take to be completely ready, tested, and experienced enough to set out on my own... which leads me to the next topic.
Yes, RVs are ridiculously expensive. Ridiculous. Even greatly used RVs can cost as much as $50k or so. Forget that sass. I've already decided that I will build my own RV. Yes, the end result will be nothing as glamorous as a real commercial RV, but I think I can actually get it done with a $20k budget (vehicle included).
Still, think of the hilarious pictures and the misadventures I will be able to share with you guys on here. (Think ugly art class ash try from junior high on four wheels.)
As for parking and such, no worries. Remember, I am still a member of the law enforcement community. These things are generally governed by municiple codes, and all it would take is one phone call for me to get most of what I would need to know to stay legal... and I've already researched this on my own as well. I even know a Deputy that builds his own personal teardrop campers and does this.
Without a doubt though, there will be challenges. I know this isn't going to be easy, I know it won't be glamorous or glorious either. What I am choosing here is a path of austerity and perhaps even hardship. I know I am not going to impress anyone. All I know is I want to be honest with myself and the way I want to live life while I am still alive and able....
I know I am not the only one who has ever felt the gravity of mortality, the loosening of the mortal coil, and the lingering pang of regret of a life not lived. I am not just doing this to save money. I also want to live until I die. The great irony in all this is that, on our bad days, we often retreat to the places where we call home, right? Well, I don't know where my home is. I live in a house but it's not a home. I think I can build one though, so I can be closer to the mountains and the oceans that I can take solace in. I want to go home too.
Finally, yes PatientSaver, I agree with your advice. As you can imagine, I've been a lurking member of these vandwelling forums for years now actually, and have read several books on it... to the point that that is the vast majority of all my Kindle recommendations, except for ones about solar power or aquaponics haha. The true test will be when the times comes for me to put theory into practice and actually build and then test living in my new "house" on wheels.
I hope things work out, but if it doesn't.... Worst case, everything falls apart, but hey, I am still in a fully-paid house, with a fully-paid van to drive around. I'm OK with that.
Those who remember me will probably remember how much I wanted to live in a more mobile lifestyle, perhaps in something like a tiny house or RV, maybe traveling a bit, definitely sizing down and minimizing cost.
By next month, it will mark one year that I've owned a house. And much as I enjoy its modern conveniences, not a day goes by lately that I do not dream of just packing it all up and heading for the mountains. I've tried this home ownership thing. It's nice... but I don't think it's for me.
Do I have Gypsy blood in me? I don't know. All I know is that property taxes are ridiculous, and while I'm at it, so is paying utility bills and insurance and HoA for a house I barely use.
I don't like the cost of it, and I don't feel like I belong here either. In a strange sort of way, I feel like a caged animal, yearning to be set free. I'm a man with a house but not a home.
I know nothing is going to change overnight but... I'm going to start shopping around for a more appropriate vehicle I can travel in.
As the title says, I am serious this time. Now I need to just Do It.
Sooo, I ran into another retirement calculator, but what's different about this one is that it does not believe the probabilistic modeling that most others calculators use. Instead, it uses actual retiree data to model.
Ok so just for fun, I decided to punch in some of my numbers, and according to this one, I should be able to make retirement... but just barely.
That's also with normal expenses that I spend now. If I really drive it down to say a life of Ramen noodles, then I could easily live through it with money to spare.
On the bright side, that's still better than before, where I thought even normal retirement would be impossible. At least it's saying it's actually possible. In any case, it's always nice to be reminded on the importance of saving for your future.
Ok so remember that rather large (to me) sum that I gifted to this friend of mine? So I been feeling the pressure on that lately.
That money was originally saved up to go to my Roth IRA that I like to max contribute at the beginning of every year. Clearly that isn't going to happen this year.
However, that money also doubles as my short term emergency savings buffer I guess. The rest are currently "locked up" in some short term trading positions that I don't want to sell unless it absolutely can't be helped.
I am still OK though, since my credit card can pick up the slack, although I don't like the idea of not being able to pay off my credit cards immediately.
However, I think I can get a grip on all this soon.
On the bright side, this friend in question does seem to be a bit cheerier so that's good.
So I have just been informed this morning at our workplace that we are experiencing a gas shortage. A gas pipe bursted in Alabama earlier this weekend, and now, the local gas stations near me have barely any gas left.
Where there is still gas, prices have already gone up by anywhere from $0.10 to $0.55 per gallon. Services are not expected to return to normal until at least a week from now.
I drive a Prius, and I mostly commute to begin with, so I don't see this as a problem for me. Still though, all this just brings back this issue of our country being perhaps too dependent on fossil fuel.
It terms of absolute fuel safety, I definitely think plug-in hybrids are the best solution, because you'd have to lose both gas AND power before those things will stop running. My Prius is good (at a regular 50+ mpgs) but it still requires gas to go anywhere.
That said, I would still seriously consider an all-electric car as well. In fact, I wonder if it's possible to some day live in such a way where I may not need a car at all? It'd be nice if I can slim my transportation needs down to just a bicycle....
I've seen a lot of good tiny house builds, but this one just oozes personality.
I had to scroll back to find out what in the world is going on with everybody listing stuff. But it sounds like an interesting challenge... because I don't think it'd actually be easy for me to come up with 20 factoids that you guys may or may not already know. I'm just a really boring guy in real life haha (though this is a personally chosen way of life so I am not sad about it or anything).
1. I was originally here under a different name, but some of you knew that already.
2. I changed name here when I had convincing evidence that my ex-wife (along with some work employees) knew who I was on here, and I wasn't comfortable with that.
3. I am now officially divorced longer than I have been married.
4. I am no longer as active here because my life is mostly back on track... and therefore don't have much of anything interesting to add. That and changes in my work schedule.
5. I have 3 kids in real life. Ages 16, 18, and 26. Yikes, where has the time gone?
6. I am very serious about privacy. It is very difficult to find any information about who I am online, and I am proud of this fact.
7. I've literally spent more years living between my parent's house and my aunt's house than one that is my own... which some of you probably already knew from reading from my blogs.
8. However, the results finally paid off this year when I was able to purchase a house without having to take on a mortgage.
9. I am a legal conceal carry pistol carrier for more than 20 years.
10. I am currently typing this in jail.... Yes I work here and not because I did something wrong haha.
11. I have trained in four different martial arts in the past... Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kempo, and Krav Maga. (A lot of ground fighting as well, but the list may not reflect that.)
12. There are at least two buddies out there who share the same shoulder tattoo as I do. Something something younger and dumber but it isn't anything bad. In fact, it's based on the "go with the flow" philosophy.
13. I play a lot of video games in real life. It's something that I think hinders me more than anything in terms of actually not being uh single. However, it's also like my only hobby really. Otherwise, I don't spend on anything else.
14. The last two women that I've dated both played video games. In fact, that's how we met. It didn't work out, but not because of video games.
15. One of them that I dated was also a US/Canada national champion in those Dance Dance Revolution video games. At their level, the competition and even athleticism is intense. Lots of example videos on YouTube if you want to see what that's like.
16. My mom is trying to hook me up with people she knows, but to be perfectly honest... I think I am getting to a point where I may actually prefer to just be single. I don't know.
17. For just myself, I am most proud of my financial accomplishments. As some of you already know, my car is paid off, my house is paid off, and I am debt free. I just want to live a simple life and be happy....
18. I still yearn to be mobile and free (aka living in a tiny house or camper van). Mostly because it would be financially cheaper.... However, I am currently in a regular house due to family and work commute reasons. No idea how long I will be here.
19. My closet is still my bedroom, and I've converted my bedroom into my living room. I know it's crazy, but it works for me. My real living room is completely empty right now. Maybe I'll turn it into a gym or something, I don't know.
20. I've only met one SA member in real life. She was a lurker more than anything, and I was trying to be a helpful guide around town. Wouldn't mind meeting more SA people though.
So I've known this person online for years. We don't associate much, but the entire time that I've known her, she's been ill, and the doctors can't fully figured out why. They think it's a somewhat complex mix of issues that's masquerading as one.
Long story short, she's never asked for help with medical bills before until now. After talking to her for a bit, it sounds like what she's proposing sounds could actually get her close to a full recovery.
Unfortunately, she needs around $4k for the treatment, and given the fact that her entire family is basically poor, well, she told me that it's probably a pipe dream.
Well I donated $3k to make sure it she really could get the treatment she needs. She was really happy and thanked me profusely. It was a nice warm fuzzy feeling. This marks the largest charity donation I've ever made to anyone or anything.
But that's also a lot of money to me. It's a big dent in my wallet, and it will be many long months before I can recover that amount.
The upside is that it is only the cash I am holding right now. I don't normally hold that much cash, but luckily for the both of us, I did. The rest of my finances are insulated and just fine. I just need to rebuild my cash reserves.
In case anyone is wondering who it is or if I am making this up, check out this link. If you are feeling charitable, feel free to make a donation yourself if you want.
Edit: Again, I get nothing for doing this. I mean brownie points maybe, but we don't associate much to begin with.
Also, I questioned her on the efficacy of "holistic medicine" in general, and she said that she doesn't actually believe in that field either, but this current regiment of treatments are actually working. It's just that it's very expensive to keep it going, and insurance won't cover it.
This is probably the last time I will be able to donate to her about this. I hope that it really works towards a full recovery, but if she doesn't, then I will know this stuff won't work for her.
Besides, there's something awkward about mixing money with friendship, especially when they realize that you have the kind of money that they don't and are willing to part with it for some reason. I've done another charity in the past for someone else with ailments going to an ALS camp I think? Although they were very polite, they started to kind of track me down asking for more help and I didn't like that.
Right now, I am using an old method to keep track of my car that I've used for years because well uh that's how I've always done it.
I use trip odometer 1 to gauge my range and fuel efficiency between tanks. In other words, every time I fill up, I reset my first trip odometer.
I use trip odometer 2 to gauge my range between oil changes. That is, every time, my car gets an oil change, I reset my second trip odometer.
So that's the old way. It works... I think. However, I know there are plenty of apps for it and what not. I don't know if they are better. They probably are, but they are not a part of my "work flow habits" if you will.
So, how do you guys keep track of your car? Is there a better way you recommend?
Oh and the last time I cooked ground Italian sausage, I managed to cook the wax paper along with it in the frying pan.
I am please to report that the thing did not catch on fire along with the rest of my kitchen. I am also please to report that, somehow, they sausages still managed to cook well enough, although much of it stuck to the wax paper and I could not scrape it off.
Maybe I should just stay out of the kitchen.
So I don't know what is going on the past few weeks, but there have been several hack attempts to my various social media and email accounts online. The sources of these attacks are also from various countries from Phillipines to Argentina... though of course, countries of origin could easily be spoofed.
These are accounts that I rarely use, so I am not terribly concerned. What DOES concern me is that these are accounts with separate IDs that have no connection with one another. So how am I getting attacks from them as a group?
Anyways, off I go to lock these down, and hopefully it's just a random bot attack, and not someone who is interested in me somehow.
Today, I finally got rid of the remaining item from my past: My secured credit card that I got after my divorce when my finances and credit score for that matter was in shambles. It was among my first steps in my vow towards financial recovery, and now, after all these years, I've finally canceled it.
All of my major purchases are done, I have new reward cards now that I use exclusively. In fact, I probably waited much longer than necessary to have it canceled, but I wanted to be sure before I do so.
So that's it. I also got a few other thing scratched off my to-do list, and plan on scratching off a few more tomorrow. Anyways, hope you guys are having a nice Labor day.
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