Your first motorhome conversion is an exciting project and whether you’re building up a completely new vehicle from scratch or just making good something that has seen better days, it’s quite an achievement to say you’ve done it yourself. Of course, the quality of the result is completely dependent on the planning that goes into it, and if you start a conversion without having first done your research you’re going to have difficulties when you get into the build. Here’s our guide to starting your first conversion and making sure you plan the job well.
Begin from the Bottom
Your chassis is probably the most fundamental part of any conversion and whatever engine or bodywork you put on it’s always going to be limited by the quality of your chassis. If you have a particular model in mind you want to use it can be a good idea to get an assessment done on its soundness by a local mechanic. If not, you can usually find yourself a good chassis from a specialist reclamation yard or online.
Use a Pen and Paper
Visualising your designs will really help you to figure out what you want, but putting them to paper will help you remember! It will also iron out any potential difficulties you’ll come across in your build and will help you to properly make use of the space you have. You don’t need to be an artist, but at a minimum you should be putting together a rudimentary floor plan based on the space you have. Make a
Even if money is no object, having a budget gives you an indication of what your project will look like in its entirety. A budget will help you to keep track of the little things that are so easy to forget; plug sockets, light fittings and safety equipment are all very easily overlooked in the heat of a big conversion. Keep your budget on a spreadsheet and use it as a working paper; it’s never finalised!
Delegate the Work
Once you have a rough idea of what needs doing, you need to be realistic about who can do what. If you’re a trained and experienced mechanic then there probably isn’t much that’s out of your comfort zone, but for the rest of us there are many techniques that really need to be mastered before you can continue with a conversion. Things like welding often cause real difficulties for amateurs, so why not delegate it to a professional?
Invest in a Tool Kit
Your work will only be as good as the tools you have to do the job, so don’t have any objections to going out and buying a comprehensive tool kit based on the work you want to be doing. You really should treat such a purchase as an investment too: with good tools your build is likely to go so much better than it would otherwise, and rather than finding yourself working hard for no result you might be inclined to make another motorhome.
Assess the Risks of your Workspace
Mechanical labour on motorhomes can be extremely dangerous: if nothing else you’re working with something much, much heavier than you and there is always a risk you could become injured. Spend a good few hours cleaning up your workspace and making sure it’s appropriate for the job you’re going to be doing. Old nails hanging around, bits of unused wood and the kids’ bikes are features of most garages but if you want to build safely you need to get them out.
Keep Track of your Work
Not only is it great fun to keep track of what modifications you make, it might be necessary when you come to apply for a motorhome insurance policy. You’ll need to know how you’ve modified the original vehicle and your insurer may well ask for a breakdown of what changes you’ve made. One of the best ways to do this can be to keep a photo log; take pictures at every step and you’ll have lots of evidence to go on.
Once you’re set up and prepared, the hard work really starts! Don’t underestimate the skill and commitment it takes to convert a motorhome, but also don’t be put off if you’ve never done it before. It’s an extremely rewarding process that if safe, well planned and well executed is one of the best ways to get you to the motorhome of your dreams.