Spent a lot of time working on the van this week

I got the hitch on with only one minor problem. I had some trouble getting it into position due to the stow-and-go seating compartment under the van. I ended up having to lower one of the shackles about 1/4 inch so I could lower the back end of the leaf spring to create enough clearance to squeeze the hitch up in there. It went in fine after that.


The rest of the work on the van went relatively fine. My right hand looks like I got into a fight with a cheese grater but that’s par for the course when doing automotive work.

Parts have slowly come in over the last week and I’ve been installing them as they arrive. First it was the wiring harness for the trailer lights. That was easy. Also got every thing I needed to install the new stereo in the van, as well as the replacement dash lights. I bought two of that same model of stereo, the other will be going in the teardrop when I get to that point.

After work today, I go to pick up the trailer that I’ll be building on and then in the morning, I’ll go lumber shopping. Then the real building begins.

Parts, parts, parts…

Since acquiring the loan, most of my evenings and breaks at work have been spent tracking down parts. Doors, port holes, vent fan, a/c unit, aluminum sheet metal, trailer, various types of jacks, lights… Most of it has been easy to find on Amazon. Some took a little more google-fu to track down and some required numerous phone calls and playing lots of phone tag.

The trailer we originally wanted was sold out and I was unable to find another 6×10 utility trailer to fit the bill anywhere within 300 miles in any direction. I did, however, find a good looking, aluminum frame, 66 inch by 10 foot trailer at a local dealer. That works out to 5 ½ feet wide, which is just fine. We’re planning the size of the trailer basically around the mattress we are buying for it, which is a 5”x60”x80” memory foam mattress. That gives us 3 inches of clearance on each side. About 1 ½ inches of that will be occupied by a wall, so it should fit in there with just a little bit of wiggle room for blankets and things.

Anyway, here is the trailer I will be buying on Monday.


The rear ramp can be easily removed via two bolts. I plan on selling it on Craigslist since I’ll never have any need for it. Perhaps I can get a few hundred out of it. I’ll need to remove the brackets on the sides and I’ll probably remove the wood deck, since I’d prefer to put down a solid peace of weatherized plywood to protect it from water and general road wear. I’ll also need to attach a tongue jack and a stabilizer jack on each corner. I’ve priced those out at harbor freight and they’re not bad at all.

I also purchased these port holes, to go in the ceiling on either side of the fan, pictured just below it.



The really major purchase of the day was the doors. I had originally considered making the doors myself from the scrap cutouts in the walls, but after some discussion on tnttt.com, and seeing the trouble other people have had with custom doors on youtube, I decided it would be much better to purchase some manufactured doors. This would simplify the cutting and also minimize the possibility of me screwing up the seal and ending up with water inside the teardrop or worse, inside the walls.

We found three major styles of teardrop doors, and settled on this one from teardroptrailerparts.com.


It’s insulated, has a screened, sliding window, comes with a trim ring and seals that are just the right thickness for the walls I’m planning to build, and we like the way they look.

The only thing we’re not terribly thrilled with is that the interior side of the door is white vinyl. Not a big deal though. There are some vinyl spray paints out there that get very good reviews and that will work out anyway because Laure still hasn’t decided what she wants to do with the interior decor.

Most teardrops have just one door, and a window on the opposite side, but we elected to go with a door on both sides.

The hitch and wiring harness showed up on our porch yesterday, and the transmission cooler arrived the day before, so I’ll be installing those things this weekend. In fact, it appears that I’ll be spending the majority of the weekend under the van. Our van is due for it’s 80,000 mile maintenance, which means a coolant flush, transmission fluid and filter change, engine air filter replacement, cabin air filter replacement, new spark plugs, tires rotated, and checking various other fluid levels.

The van is getting the full spa treatment tomorrow.

Something else I purchased is a bluetooth stereo, two of them actually. I bought two identical Pioneer units that got excellent reviews on Amazon and were priced reasonably. One will go in the van and the other will go in the teardrop.

Of course that snowballed, as automotive work tends to do, and I figured that as long as I will have the dash apart to install the stereo, I might as well replace the dash lights that went out years ago. However, I can’t have this nice, bright, blue, LED lit stereo and those bland, green dash and control panel lights in the van. So as long as I’m replacing panel lights, I’ll replace all of them with blue LEDs. I ordered those today, as well as a wiring harness adapter for the stereo. They won’t be here until the middle of next week so I won’t get to put those in until later, possibly next weekend.

I’ll post photos and videos as I go, just to document all of this.

The people I’ve spoken with on forums and on youtube, that have built their own teardrop trailers, say that the build time ranges anywhere from a month, to three months, to six months, to a year. I really don’t know how long all of this will take me. I’m aiming to have it all done by August but that might turn out to be unrealistic. Getting the loan to cover the building costs means that I won’t have to wait on parts, the only thing that will delay things is that I’ll only be able to get any real work done on the weekends.

The most time consuming parts will be building the floor, the walls and the ceiling. I hope to get the floor done in one weekend, one wall done each following weekend and then the ceiling and the bulk head may or may not take two weekends to work out. So there’s at least a month, possibly five weeks to get the bones in place. That’s not accounting for taking Memorial Day weekend off to go spend time with my family at our usual Memorial Day weekend get together.

Hopefully by then, Laure will have nailed down what she wants to do with the interior and the galley, and I expect building the cabinetry for those to take another weekend each all on their own. Then there is running the electrical, installing the lights, A/C, sink, propane stove, voltage converter, and other odds and ends like that. I’m guessing two weekends to do all of that.

Then I’ll need to build the galley hatch and skin the whole thing in aluminum. One weekend or two? Not sure. Then of course there is the random crap and fixing screw-ups that I need to factor in. Also, I intend to take at least one weekend a month to go camping and spend time with the family. I might be able to play some catch-up on the evenings during the week but I don’t want to burn myself out on this thing by letting it occupy my every waking, non-work minute. One or two nights a week might be reasonable though.

So having this all done by mid-august may or may not be realistic. We’ll see. The main reason I’ve set that target date is that Laure and I both want to be able to take the teardrop (which Laure has already named “Betty”) out for at least one excursion before the summer is out. We did request two weeks off toward the end of the summer but again, having the teardrop done by then might be a tough deadline to meet.

In any case, I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with this, after Laure and I have spent about the last six months thinking about it and planning it out.

I’m really excited to get working on it.


We’re committed now

Laure and I just left the bank, having secured a loan to cover the costs of building the teardrop. I took what I expected it to cost and added in about $1500 of padding, just for x-factor. We should be good to go.

So now on to the next step, buying and installing the tow package on our van. The hitch itself will go on first, and then a transmission cooler. Neither is a complicated procedure and I should be able to get both done in an evening. While I’m at it though, I should flush and change the transmission fluid.

It’ll feel good to finally get started on this project!