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jage 03-26-2012 04:54 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by Chumley
What we soon came to realize was that we kept hearing about how they do this and do that on their trips but they are likely 20 -30 years younger than we are.

When I bought my Jeep new in 2000 the salesperson was adamant I did NOT need AC... "you can take the top off after all, you don't need AC". I was surprised the extent I had to argue to get AC included in my brand new Jeep package... it's not like there were any "on the lot" either.


I am still working on the communication aspect. I sent in my floor plan and sheet with extra options two weeks ago and am still waiting for pricing.
From my experience buying used, and from what I glean from other's experiences, there is a real problem coming up- what I frankly think might be SMB's biggest issue, and that's a sometimes total disconnect between the sales team, management and the floor.

If you lay out a 50 with or without a microwave, it's not a big deal- but get seriously off the map and this could bite you in the backside. It's ironic that their niche is custom layout, but the more unique your layout and/or equipment choices the more likely decisions and solutions will be implemented without regard to your vision.

Just something to be aware of, and on top of, as you move forward.

Incidentally the only major thing I'd change about my van from experience would be to add blackwater and a permanent toilet. Unfortunately that's more than I could get into with the floorplan, so I'm stuck with the portable.

windguy 03-28-2012 01:32 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Nice write-ups, well written. thanks for sharing your experiences.
looking forward to hearing how this works out for you.
would like to see your floor plan and of course pics when you're done.
Just curious, if you are Chumley, then is your better half Tennessee Tuxedo? :b1:

windguy 03-28-2012 01:38 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by jage
Incidentally the only major thing I'd change about my van from experience would be to add blackwater and a permanent toilet. Unfortunately that's more than I could get into with the floorplan, so I'm stuck with the portable.

Jage, sorry if I asked this before in another thread but why the permanent toilet over a portable?
Not looking to get too personal here with your throne preferences, just want to gain insight from an experienced van man. Thanks!

Chumley 03-28-2012 11:02 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Windguy you guessed right. I remember the old cartoons and went with Chumley since I didn't think Mutley would go over as well.

Those of my (our?) vintage might remember those days when we even had cartoons on during prime time viewing hours. We had the most incredibly simple and sometimes silly cartoons. What a simple time it was...

joey2cool 04-01-2012 06:09 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
What helped the communication process for me was lots of phone calls, emails, and photos. It's also helpful to do some homework yourself so that you can talk their language and relate to regulations and dimensions they must do the build around.

I drew up two dimensional and three dimension sketches for our custom layout. Initially the stuff we labored over was more aesthetic than functional, but later it became clear that we would have to make some tough decisions about functional trade-offs and stick to our priorities.

If we lived in the area we would have stopped in for regular visits to watch the progress. The final touches go in fast and we did miss one shop snafu. Looking back it turned out just fine. Again, the aethethic short-comings are easier to forget after living in the van for a while.

We love. We'd do it again - funding provided of course. SMB West was great to work with.

jage 04-02-2012 09:24 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by windguy
why the permanent toilet over a portable?

It might be a case of "grass is greener" as I've never had a blackwater system, however I don't like dumping the portable or cleaning the tank afterwards (when that's even possible). With the exception of a pit toilet (which technically I don't think you're supposed to put sani-blue in) it's always an issue to dump, and I don't feel any better about splashing blue/green sewage water around public restrooms than in my own house.

The best technique I've found is to have the receptacle toilet flushing as you pour, but even then splashback is inevitable, one flush never does it, and the whole process is nasty on at least 3 levels, one of which, again, is the blue dye. If you're on the road, you can just shove that bad boy back in the van (there is really no place to clean it on the road), but more often than not it's a whole trip's worth to clean out at home. And even if you've used it only for liquid waste, multiple people's urine sitting in a bucket for days with toilet paper and little else is not a joy in itself.

If you've used it for anything but peeing, no matter how many times you fill, slosh and dump in the house toilet again at some point you're either hosing some amount of sewage onto your property or leaving it in the porta-potti. Even if I wanted to clean it on the road I definitely use more water in a full rinse out than I even carry in the SMB.

So now there is blue poop water splashed all over the bathroom (God forbid you left any of the good towels out), tiny bits of raw sewage washed out in your yard and your porta-potti is relatively clean and fresh for next time. Relatively. And light and easy to move for the first time since last time.

Other people seem to love them. They say it's no problem to dump and never smells. I've gone with and without sani-blue, dumped on arrival at home and left things to stew. I've dumped in three of my own houses' toilets and several places while traveling. With the exception of pit toilets, it never goes well for me. Not using it is the only thing that works really, really well.

The idea of a dedicated dump area that is like a giant drive-in utility sink sounds like heaven. Not having to lug gallons of waste into a bathroom via the most awkward container... it seems nice. It just sounds so much better to have one end of the system for sewage- an end that is outside the van at all times- instead of the middle of a two part container that goes back inside. On top of that, a larger tank and no hesitation about using the system because it's so messy to empty later.

Again, it might be a grass looks greener on that side of the fence thing. It's not something you can reasonably change post build and it's way, way better than not having anything it but it's not something I think is super clean and easy, which seems to be the minority opinion for reasons I can't fathom.


twogone 04-02-2012 10:28 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
yup... and the smell will knock a bulldog off a plate of guts. Even just second-day disposal is rough.
I have dumped my porta directly into the blackwater dump at campgrounds, and it was just as stinky. Blu-stuff just alters the color (not helpful, thanks) and makes the smell somehow worse, but I still put in the blu-stuff, 'cause I'm scared to try it without it.


JayBea 04-02-2012 01:49 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Allow me to chime in. As a campground owner, I've seen the results of all efforts to handle this problem, both in the restrooms and at the dump station.

So here is my 2 cents:

First, the "blue stuff" only adds a perfume. What it does is to kill all bacterial action. When alot of this is dumped into a small system, like a pit toilet or even a single family septic system, it can stop all of the natural process of digestion. Then you will get a significant odor for quite some time before the natural processes are re-started.

So.. use an additive that increases the natural action of digestion like this:

If you use this in both the grey water and the porta-pottie every thing will smell better, and the waste will pour out better, almost eliminating the need to flush. And here's another idea: Use your (now treated) grey water in the porta-pottie getting double use of that weight of liquid.

If you happen to have a black water system and ever get a clog, RV Digest-It will completely digest the clog over night.


Chumley 04-02-2012 07:29 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
I greatly appreciate all of the feedback on the porta-potti vs. marine toilet issue. It is one my wife and I have been struggling with.

After watching videos on emptying a black water tank I dread the thought of it. I saw the Vimeo video of a walkaround of a SMB Sprinter and if I have to crawl up under the rig to get to the black water hose it just looks like too much for my bad knees and back. Did I mention I was falling apart? Of course picking up the 30-40lbs worth of crap in a porta-potti tank might not be the best thing either. It appears that either way is just as disgusting so now I am going with physically less inconvenient and damaging.

But still, I would appreciate more feedback. I do not have a lot of experience with this.

I will be back with another installment on some odds and ends soon.

I did get my interior build cost estimate after a little over 2 weeks. It is more than I thought and I had fluffed it up a bit too. I am going to drive in and meet with my sales guy to find out what we can do and get a better handle on the build.

I thank those of you who have corresponded with me about your experiences. I believe a trend is developing that I will share with you when I feel more sure of it to be fair. I am also aware that most want to keep individual comments confidential so will respect that completely. I assume that SMB knows who I am so I don't mind delivering good news as well as bad as long as it is fair and balanced. Just the facts man, well, then there's my subjective personal evaluations too... :f2:

flagstaff 04-03-2012 07:36 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Go with the portta pottie. No big deal about dumping and keeping it all clean. Use clorex. When is the last time any of you had to change a baby's dirty dipers or taken care of an elderly partent that needs to be cleaned up after an accident? It won't kill you. Get real.

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