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Old 11-05-2015, 05:20 PM   #1
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home-built safety concerns

Hi folks:

My first post here as I plan to embark on a home-built E350 camper project. I've been scanning forums and watching many YouTube vids showing homemade projects but one big concern of mine is how badly made and how loose stuff is in so many of these campers.

I'm already experienced with off-road vehicle safety; all my stuff inside and out my current vehicle is always well-secured so when I see what some guys have done, it bothers me. An emergency stop or worse and these vans will be full of projectiles. Some typical examples:

- Fold out beds made from wood or steel frames with minimal screw fixing to the floors; sometimes only to the wood layer over the floor and not through to the steel.
- Lots of knick-knacks stored loose in holders/shelves.
- TVs attached to a cabinet by a typical household mount with little wood screws.

I think this is really scary and should be discussed. If I've just described your homemade van, it's not too late to fix this. One anecdotal tale to enforce this point; a friend of mine was rear-ended by a truck that couldn't stop on an icy road. Neither were driving very fast but my friend's fancy aluminum brief case that was in the back seat was thrown about inside the rental car he was driving and it smashed into the drivers seat. It now has a big dent in it. Fortunately my friends head does not.

I'm in the process of negotiating for a 4x4 van now. As things progress, I will take pics and vids and share. I wanted to kick-off this subject as I have found almost nothing regarding real engineering from the safety perspective when it comes to outfitting a camper. I think "Upnorth of 60" (don't know his name) was one of the few that did talk about building a movable lip into the bed frame to prevent his storage boxes moving in either direction during driving.

I'm keen to know how the professional companies secure cabinetry to the walls and floors so I hope someone with a Sportsmobile may be able to answer this. I guess I could always go directly to the company and ask them.

Thanks to everyone for your posts. They have been and will continue to be very useful to me with my project.

Rick
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Old 11-06-2015, 07:52 AM   #2
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Re: home-built safety concerns

you can go right to their website to see cabinet data.
http://www.sportsmobile.com/safety/
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:14 AM   #3
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Re: home-built safety concerns

STOP NOW.........
Do not proceed!
Lock all the doors and windows!
Do not leave the house!
It's a dangerous world out there be very careful!!!!
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:11 AM   #4
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Re: home-built safety concerns

Rick, I think your only comfort is probably going to come from adding a contractor-style steel bulkhead, which drastically reduces the use of your van as a camper. You can do small things to prevent damage, but no Sportsmobile or any other camper conversion is going to stay put in a serious accident. I suppose you could arrange a floor plan where there are walls behind the front seats, cabinetry or a bathroom nook or something, but campers and camper vans are inherently unsafe. My suggestion is to minimize time at freeway speeds, though it's something I can't do personally since I live in the east and usually travel in the van out west.

Spurious' comment was somewhat tongue in cheek I'm sure, but also somewhat serious. I don't worry about it. I take sensible measures and put heavy things on the floor, or bungeed or secured in some way, but I know in a serious collision all hell would literally break loose. My MIL was in a head on years ago on a busy city street about 40 mph. Boxes of books she had in the trunk wound up wedged between the dashboard and windshield, as in wedged where you couldn't pull them out by hand. She was badly hurt but lived. It's a crapshoot, but still I recommend living and enjoying over staying home and worrying.

If you're going to build your own van just keep adding bolts, brackets and screws until you feel comfortable or are GVWR. It might make a difference. It might not.

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Old 11-06-2015, 11:17 AM   #5
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Re: home-built safety concerns

What spurious said ^. And it is for this very reason that I have never googled images of what happens to a fiberglass roof when a van flips on its side or rolls.

And there is a reason that I "Drive it like a van," looking way ahead and applying the brakes slowly to stop at least two days before where I really need to...
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:17 PM   #6
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Re: home-built safety concerns

Quote:
Originally Posted by "i
looking way ahead and applying the brakes slowly to stop at least two days before where I really need to...

I think you just described my van too!
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:37 PM   #7
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Re: home-built safety concerns

I think this is an interesting topic. Sure, maybe no van is perfectly safe, but why not at least try? Or, at least be aware of how things stand (some people may not be and may just assume all is good).

On boats this is always in the front of one's mind when planning. "What will happen to this when getting knocked around, or even rolling through 360"

I'm somewhere in the middle on this with my current rig. The main installations (couch/batteries/appliances/walls) are bolted down, or have enough screws into structural plywood that I think they are good. OTOH, I have gotten a bit lax about "knick-knacks of daily life" since they will mostly stay in place when driving (this is the opposite of sailing, where there is no false sense of security since everything falls and splatters all over the place within ten minutes of leaving the dock if you get lax).

In boating there is much info shared about ways people secure things. If anyone in vans isn't into it, I can understand that. On the other hand, I'm interested, so maybe others are too?
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Old 11-06-2015, 02:34 PM   #8
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Re: home-built safety concerns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viva
I think this is an interesting topic. Sure, maybe no van is perfectly safe, but why not at least try? Or, at least be aware of how things stand (some people may not be and may just assume all is good)......................................... If anyone in vans isn't into it, I can understand that. On the other hand, I'm interested, so maybe others are too?
I agree, well said.

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Old 11-07-2015, 04:37 PM   #9
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Re: home-built safety concerns

I appreciate the responses. I've always been a safety nut and with three small kids I'm even more sensitive to what may go wrong. The whole reason for my new project will be to able to escape with the kids at the drop of a hat. I'm not a believer in bubble-wrapping my babes but I've just seen too many campers that are simply full of loose stuff and it bothers me.
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Old 11-07-2015, 04:43 PM   #10
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Re: home-built safety concerns

Quote:
Originally Posted by mhr900ss
I appreciate the responses. I've always been a safety nut and with three small kids I'm even more sensitive to what may go wrong. The whole reason for my new project will be to able to escape with the kids at the drop of a hat. I'm not a believer in bubble-wrapping my babes but I've just seen too many campers that are simply full of loose stuff and it bothers me.
I hear you. I've seen offroaders with loose hi-lift jacks, loose tools, loose spare parts all in the back of their rigs on some really rough trails. I don;t want to survive a roll-over only to be hit in the back of my head with a toolbox.

Herb
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