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Intro:
This is not a common build here on this forum, but this build is part of another long term build, that has been going on for 10 years now. I feel it is fitting to share this build here, since so much of it's companion is documented on EF. This thread is as detailed as my patience has allowed. I want to be able to help others that might be searching for methods/ideas, and "how to" for much of the build. I do belong to other Overland forums, and will link this thread from them, to share with others.

About:
This trailer is a short compact, stout, capable, high clearance, Swiss army knife of a camper. It is not a popup camper, nor is it a sleep in hard shell camper. It will offer all the creature comforts those do, but in a little different fashion. This style trailer, makes you enjoy the outdoors. You cook/dine, lounge & hot shower outside, but you sleep inside a roomy insulated roof top tent, 78" off the ground.

The tow rig:

The Black Hole

The entire build for the tow rig, has always been with this build in mind, and it has been extremely difficult to keep that to myself, and why it was built the way it was. It is a purpose build, with a specific objective.

The Objective:
To be the living quarters and storage, for off the beaten path journeys yet to come.
To have everything needed to sustain myself, and a few others, out in the middle of nowhere, only accessible by unpaved trails, such as old mining roads. Hauling all the boondocking gear behind, instead of overloading the vehicle's suspension. To minimize setup and tear down times for camping, and have camping items readily accessible, whenever needed.

The trailer needs to be capable of following wherever the tow rig goes. Matching tires, axle width, and the same, if not more height clearance as the tow rig. Sleeping & shelter for 4 comfortably, sustainable cold food storage, food prep space, gas powered cooking, AC/DC power supply, and hot showers for days at a time, are all the requirements for this build.

Goal:

This is the other half of that long term build plan. I am slow at the building and fabricating process, and this will take about a year to complete. Updates will happen as the build progresses. I have entered the 7th month of the build, and expect another 3-4 months left to get it road worthy at the least. Just like anything I have done, it never ends, and improvements will happen, as I gain experience & knowledge with what works best for me.

Baby steps:

This is the first time I have ever attempted anything like this. I am bound to make mistakes, and corrections/improvements are all but a guarantee. I do have a final vision for what I want this to be, as it has been a thought process for many many years now. Please bear with me as this thread goes. Some items won't make sense until it comes to be. I am not going to tell you how things should be done. I am just sharing how I did things on this build. Agree/disagree, like it or leave it, it's mostly a learning experience by mixing what I know, and what I had to learn, to get things as I want them. Definitely not for everybody. Heck, I know I will change things down the road, as I find ways to improve on it. That is part of the fun!



Why am I building this?
I'm Tired of ground tent camping all my life. Tired of the time it takes to set up & tear down. Tired of all the tedious packing, unpacking, moving things from place to place after every trip. Plus, I don't want a motor home that can't leave the roads.
I plan on getting lost a few times, venturing out to places unknown and unseen. We live in a large, beautifully gifted geographical location on the planet. Our own back yard is filled with amazing spectacles. Places that can only be seen on dirt trails, off the beaten paths, not by roads covered in pavement, and delivery trucks. Exploring into the dark hours of the night, and setting camp in the middle of nowhere, instead of heading back. We can traverse a lot of ground this way.

Kudos:

A few friends helped with this build, and I couldn't have got as far as it is without them. Special thanks to James, Matt, Kurt, Ryan, & Jacob. You guys rock!

A warning from the author:

This thread contains: Long drawn out boring tedious explanations, Dry humor, embarrassing anecdotes, speech in the 3rd person, countless pictures, and some content is for Mature audiences. There is a little for everybody here, but be warned, this is not your typical build thread, and not from your typical builder. I am not responsible for your emotional mood swings, due to reading this material. ;)

Edit: Progress pics as of 10/15/18. Getting closer every day!

Dr washed.jpg

RTT on front pass side full view.jpg


First real use!

Camp set 1.jpg

Camp set 2.jpg

Bat wing awning up.jpg



Current specs:
Main Frame- 12'.5"L x 48"W
Whopping 25" of ground clearance with 35" tires
Fenders- 72" Long x 14.00" Wide tapered to 0.00" in front
Cabin- 48"W x 72"L x 36"H
Overall Width - 76"
Overall Height - 68" Roof Rack lowered - 78" Roof Rack lifted
Overall Height- 80" With RTT stowed - 140" RTT open & rack lifted
Dry weight- 2300#'s

2"x3"x3/16" Steel Tube Frame, with 1 pc center tongue beam from front to rear.
3500 Lb Timbren Axleless Independent suspension
10" Electric brakes
35"x12.5" Goodyear MTR's w/kevlar & matching spare
15"x10" Mickey Thompson black satin aluminum wheels
Lock N Roll off road articulating Hitch
14 Ga steel cabin walls & roof
3/4" Ply floor, stained, sealed, & 5 topcoats of acrylic gloss clear
Commercial 60 Mil Waterproof TPO membrane under belly skin
12 Ga steel Fenders on Sq frame & 2" x 3/16" Round slider tubes
Spare tire mount on cabin front
16 Ga swing out 4'W x 2'D x 24"H Tapered Tongue box
16 Ga Side boxes with Tapered front compartments
Telescoping Roof rack (12") with scissor jack actuation
Two rear 31" BAL C leveling jacks & swivel plate base
Dual 5K swivel weld ring flat plate base Tongue jacks
ARK dual wheel offroad 750 HD Tongue jack
Slider system for hidden Solar panel storage
Dual 11 lb Propane tank storage mounts
Quick Disconnect Water supply
All Stainless & Aluminum hardware, where applicable

Interior:
Front compartment 48"Wx24"Lx36"H
Two side doors, and upper 12 ga shelf with expanded metal rear wall
Rear Compartment 48"Wx48"Lx36"H
3/4" PT wood flooring, custom finish, clear satin marine topcoats.
Tie downs on frame tubes
1-60W Led rear cabin, 3-10w Led front cabin
Wiring plumbed with flex and hard conduit
Split cabin with full rear cabin deck, tie down racks

Power:
Dual Group 31 MAGM deep cycle 110 AH batteries
110 shore
100W Renogy Solar
Charge:
NOCO Marine 110v 20 amp onboard Dual smart charger
30 amp Renogy MPPT Solar charger
140 amp traveling vehicle charge, via smart charger
Soon to come: 40 amp-500 watt DC-DC charger from alternator
Portable Valence 80Ah Lifepo4 Solar Gen w/inverter

Accessories:
4 season 23Zero 73" Walkabout RTT W/ large Annex room - telescopic ladder w/rung pads- Ext shoe bags-Led lights- 3" thick x Ca King mattress w/anti condensation mat.
Oversized high density 3" thick 56" x 96" mattress. Cold weather cover, additional secondary rain fly.
Rhino Rack 8.5' Bat Wing 270* Wrap around Awning (2019 version)
5Liter - 1.5 gpm - On demand instant hot water heater
ARB/ViAir 150 psi onboard air system
Ready Welder II
Slide out Kitchen/storage- 1/2" Baltic Birch, sealed/stained/clear coats 350# slides
ICECO VL45 portable fridge/freezer - AC/DC
Custom powder coated locking Fridge slide out.
Wireless controlled winch (upper roof rack storage, rear bumper hitch receiver)
Rear door interior fold down table
Dual 11 lb propane tanks (rear fender mounted)
Marine control panel, rocker switches w/circuit breakers, 12v battery meter, Aux outlets
30 gallon fresh water tank & 3.0 gpm instant on pump w/ inline filter
Trailer Harness Connection lock box
First Aid field kit (large)
Dual Fire Extinguisher's

LED Lighting:
Front- 2-45w dual pods w/amber fogs
Sides- 4-18w pods
Rock- 4-10w blue IP 67
Cabin- 1-60w 3 setting round rear compartment ceiling fixture, 3-10w pods front compartment
Tails/brakes/turns- 30w 6" oval
Reverse- 30w 6" oval
Markers- 3w red & amber
7 pin RV trailer harness & J box

Tongue box build:
Full box tube frame & 16 ga sheet, w/plate and tube gussets
Dual battery mount tray
Red oak Shelf for Noco dual 20 amp charger, 20amp solar charger, 12v systems (3) circuit breakers, fuse panel, main power cutoff switch
3 space divider walls & front storage shelf
Gas lift struts, 2"x 3/16" thick Aluminum lid hinge
Dual SS locking paddle latch handles
Dual 4" SS louvered vents w/bug screens
Pass thru power cord outlet with weatherproof door hatch
NOCO 110v wall power plug w/ weatherproof cover
2k locking latch to frame, & dual 7/16" clevis pins to frame
5/8" spindle for swivel action, for spare tire removal/security

Paint:
Frame- Chassis saver gloss black
Cabin Exterior- Acid etch primer & Single stage Gloss Black automotive 2k urethane
Cabin Interior- SW DTM Gloss White
Side & T boxes, All doors- Urethane Epoxy primer & Single stage Gloss Black 2k Urethane
Roof rack- Chassis saver gloss black
Fenders-Acid etch primer underneath & Urethane base topside, Black Raptor liner w/grip additive

Trim: Aluminum



Lots to add to that list up there, and I will as the build progresses. :)

I hope you enjoy the thread, as much as I have enjoyed the build itself.
 



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gmanpaint

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Shelf change Phase 2:

We turn our attention to the shelf portion of the project. Mock up Loose before install.

With the Pass side left open, a wall was needed to keep anything from falling into that void. It had to slant with the rear higher than the front due to the box design, and clear the slanted lid. It also needed a new bracket for this open side from front to back. 1/2" angle and some flat stock welded up, and painted was simple enough. It bolts to the shelf, and rests on the existing box shelf front/rear brackets.

A short wall was added to block the fronts of the ACC wall items, but also needed to be reached by hand easily to operate them. This was done by cutting it in half, and adding a full length piano hinge, with a clasp lock on the backside. More Alum U chan was added to the tops of these verticals.

The removable center of the shelf is suspended by means of Alum flat stock bolted to the main shelf. The "Hatch Door" has a section of interlocking alum flat on one side, and a clamp latch on the other. This locks it in tight, and can't move once laid in place.

Pass side bracket loose.

tbox 2.0 11.jpg


Front view showing the front box lid latch cut outs, needed for install.

tbox 2.0 7.jpg


Dr side view

tbox 2.0 8.jpg


Rear view

tbox 2.0 9.jpg


Hatch door removed.

tbox 2.0 10.jpg


The cutouts seen on the rear of the main shelf is for the ACC wires to fit into, and letting the rest of it rest on the box shelf brackets that run full length around the inside of the box. This main shelf can be removed to change the batteries out. The Hatch door can be removed to work on them, and allows easy access to the back of the main switch panel.

Phase 2 complete!
 



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traveler

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I've always admired the neatness and precision of your work. Very professional. Mine always looks like a Jr. Hi. Shop project that got a "C".
 






gmanpaint

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Shelf change phase 3.

Install time!

The wiring was the hardest part of the install. I'm super thankful I had made quick disconnects for the main switch panel. New 4 ga battery leads had to be made for this project. I upgraded the solar charge wires from 10awg to 8awg while at it. The new MPPT is always hot, but the solar panel uses the 30a circuit breaker to disconnect when not in use. This worked well, as you always connect the batteries first on these things. Once wiring was complete, the shelf was installed.

The main shelf is mounted to the box shelf angles with stainless carriage bolts, lock washers, and wing nuts for tool free removal.
The short wall protector simply folds down for room to access all the circuit breakers. I keep them turned off when not in use.
I added L brackets to the vertical walls, and the ACC wall for added support, and rough road use. The walls are affixed to the shelf via pocket screws as well.

Shelf in, hatch out for battery / switch/ onboard air access.

20220222_171357.jpg


Hatch in, short wall up.

tbox 2.0 13.jpg


ACC items protected with short wall.

tbox 2.0 14.jpg


Short wall open for ACC hand access.

tbox 2.0 15 short wall open.jpg


You can see the cut out openings for the main switch and the MPPT controls/screen. Was the best I could think of, and make the wall as tight as I could, to maximize the space in front of the wall.

Hatch back in, wall up.

20220222_171321.jpg

tbox 2.0 13.jpg


To finish this up, I will cover the entire shelf with thick rubber made from smooth mud flaps. It will hide the hatch door, and provide some shock/sound free flooring for stowed items. To keep these loose stowed items in place, I have a mesh motorcycle net with metal hooks. Waiting on some small black D ring mounts for the net to arrive.

Ok, that's the end of this project. The list still has a couple items on it to tackle. I will update again after progress is made. Until next time....Peace, Love, and all that jazz! 👋
 






gmanpaint

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I've always admired the neatness and precision of your work. Very professional. Mine always looks like a Jr. Hi. Shop project that got a "C".
Thanks Traveler! My OCD is a roller coaster. Some days worse than others. 1 thing leads to 10-20 things on bad days. This was a "5 out of 10" OCD project.

I didn't go full Ozzy 🤪🚂, but came close a couple of days into it. 🤣
 






traveler

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Yea, I've had those days myself. A simple project leads into a much more complicated one. I have an example in the making right now that I hope to finish up tomorrow. I'll post it when I'm done. Involves making underhood wiring "neater" and switches inside "simpler" along with a new stereo install. Shoulda been done in a day, but.....
 






CDW6212R

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Whew, that's a lot to look at. I'm sure it was more to think it through, super well done. I love it.
 












CDW6212R

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I had a mess of power window wiring scattered through my 99 truck on the floor, for a week as I figured out the logic of how to run each circuit with two sets of switches. I ended up with virtually double the wiring, plus two extra relays per door. It seems simple now, but it was interesting to work it out in my head.
 






gmanpaint

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This weeks learning experience, and lesson.
1) Do not leave the power switch on the portable power station, and shelf it for months.
2) How to wake up a fancy set of expensive LIFePo-4 batteries from a self induced sleep mode, without the Computer harness, & software.

Yep, the big dummy I am, left the main power switch on, and over a few months, the voltage dropped enough for the inboard Battery Management system (BMS)
to put them into a Coma. Oooof!!

Can't charge in the coma mode! Now the correct way to wake them up is to hook up the laptop to them via a special port cable, and open up the diagnostic software. From there its just a matter of pressing the right commands, and your back in biz. Well.... this caveman doesn't have that stuff.

After reading the manual a 100 times, I deduced what happens when this mode is activated.
A) Voltage drops below 10v without normal discharge (it learns and saves usage data), and the BMS disconnects the cells from the main posts internally. It senses a parasitic draw.
B) If the cells are disconnected, you can't charge it under normal charging, as the charger senses no connection circuit, and my smart charger tells you the polarity is reversed.
C) Now what?

Class is in session....

Recharge attempts
#1) 20 amp smart charge to top battery box posts. Result- Reverse polarity error
#2) Same charger to the battery posts. Result- Reverse polarity error

More research!! Discover that the flashing LEDS on the battery are telling me something. (derp) They are freaking out, and rapidly flashing from red to green, red to green...
When I put the charger on it, the BMS woke up from a coma, and freaked out basically. It was yelling at me in silence. Caveman not see the light...ugga bugga.... fire bad.

They need to be either solid or flashing red, yellow, or green for codes given in the manual. 5 second & 20 second intervals even. Nowhere does it mention the rapid 2 color flashing. Imagine that?! Finding myself on some solar forum, and reading an obscure post, I find a smidge of mention for the flashing lights. I need to make the led's flash green to take a charge. Only way to do this, is to get the internal cells connected again. Fun time begins now!

More research led to me to discover that when the BMS sees a sever over discharge, and after it disconnects the cells, you have to get those cells connected again, but how?
After you get the cells connected again, a small 1amp charge is needed at first (1 hr) to slowly increase voltage past 6.5v, then a <20amp charger can be used as normal. If you don't do this, the BMS will put it back to sleep mode, and disco the cells again. Ugh! I didn't own a 1amp charger..... well, 3 days later and I do now. Proud owner of a NOCO Genius state of the art 1amp charger good for LIFePo-4. Sweet! Well, it's 1amp and what I needed, but it's also a smart charger. Won't work until these dang cells are connected again.

Enough of the fancy tech! You need brute caveman ingenuity and force it. OK, I'm decent at caveman stuff, I earned that degree long ago. My final work around:

I used a separate car battery and jumper cables on one set of battery posts I went full on Dr Frankenstein on this bi**h.
With the negative clamped on the post, and the Positive clamp in hand, I began the defib procedure by touching the positive post, and releasing it to see what happened.
1st rapid 1 second touch - Nothing
2nd rapid 2 second touch- Battery buzzed. (That can't be good!) Led went to flashing green Hmm....gave that some thought, and decided it was a good thing!
Led was now flashing once every 5 seconds. Installed 1amp charger.... and still says reverse polarity. Cells not connected. Led's return to rapid flash. Stupid BMS. Grrr...

Lets try this again.
After placing the 1amp charger on the terminals of one battery and turned on, (set to LifePo), the defib procedure was done again, but to the 2nd battery hooked in parallel.
This time, I left the positive clamp touching for a couple seconds longer, Buzzing enough to vibrate the positive clamp in my hand. Scary? Yes! Felt like I should have renewed my life Ins policy that morning. Turns out my hunch was right tho, so no worries.

The vibrations was the BMS connecting the cells, and the juice applied was holding them there (higher amps overrode the circuitry, freakout #2) long enough for the smart charger to read a connection, and BAM! 1amp Charge was going! I didn't die, the shop wasn't blown to bits, and the rooster crowed in the distance. Phew!
I needed this charge to bring the voltage up to past 6.5v minimum for the bigger 20a charger. Was late, so I let it charge overnight. Checked voltage in the Morn, and was at 14.5v, but 1amp smart charge still said not done, so instead of hooking up the bigger charger, I let it ride on the 1amp. What's it going to hurt? Nothing.

It's been 10 hours since, and it's still charging. Looks like it will take 40 hours to fully charge them both with the 1amp. Here is the kicker tho. The BMS will not allow it to fully charge. It will tell the smart charger it is full at about 80%. something I learned while stalking websites on this. To get it to 100%, I need the software and cable, to set the charge to "Top Off" setting. No idea why they do this, but I do know it's a bummer.

I will store the unit with the new 1amp charger on float mode from here on out. I will also try to remember to turn it off!

Long post, but if someone is searching the webs for this issue, I hope they understand a little more than they did before.
 






traveler

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Very decent of you to share your hard-earned knowledge for those others out there in the same boat. :cool::)
 












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I hope it gets easier to take care of these newer batteries, it seems hard so far.

I haven't tested that LiFePo4 battery I put into my 73 Ranchero yet. I charged it when I got it with the special charger, and started the car once to drive it around the block. I got it because it should survive longer without being run/charged, I hope it does okay for 4-6 months at a time. I love the light weight and it was easy to install, we'll see if it lasts eleven years. ;)
 






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