Vanagon – syncro – more underbody protection – another update

Nov 11, 2013 update on battery fitment. Not liking the way the thing sits under the van I though it might fit under the back seat. But no, the seat latch gets in the way of it sitting against the vertical face of the bench. Can’t see any other spot in the van for the bugger, looks like I will be mounting it under the van. Up front in the stock spare tire location would be workable. Ifonly I had a tire carrier on the rear, you know, attached to the bumper. But no, not me, I diddle around and haven’t finished the damned rear bumper build that is going to have a tire carrier on it!


I thought I would have buttoned up this damned project the past week, but work interfered and I was thrown an 128 lb curve ball.


A Northstar, NSB M12-210, 210 Ahr AGM battery. Yeah, sure, it is more battery than I need, but it was a gift and it is much, much bigger than Simon’s battery. The latter is the important thing.

It is approximately 13″ high, so on its side it might fit between the frame rail and the outer body box section. This space is occupied on the driver’s side by the propane tank (in a Westy), and is free and clear on the passenger’s side. The passenger’s side is where I have been buggering around with the protection plate and so before I finish attaching that I thought I should make sure the battery would fit.

What I’m trying to say is I didn’t want to add any fasteners that would interfere with fitting the battery. But… before I do the test fitting I had to replace the J pipe that connects the collector to the cat on the stock WBX exhaust. Yeah, yeah, I should have replaced it when I did the heads back in May/June. But I thought I could get the old one to work. No dice, the flares on both ends of the pipe had eroded away so much that the pipe was not making a seal. You can see the difference in this pic.


That done, back to the battery fitting. Well not quite, I got distracted by my old Simplicity walk behind, 2 wheeled tractor. Got mucking around with that and I think I might post something about it soon. Ok, now to the battery.


It is a tight fit. It sticks down about 1.5″ and I agree with you, it makes me think twice about this location. Sure, I would make a good stout plate to go underneath the battery, and come up the exposed side, but I dunno…


The almost forgotten protection plate is being held onto the frame rail by some 1/4-20 bolts for now. I’m going to make some more tabs, probably weld on, to secure it better. But I have to make up my mind about the battery location (I think it might fit under the rear seat) and if i do decide on an under the van position I have make sure the securing tabs for the plate won’t interfere with things.


  1. #1 by Marius Strom on November 9, 2013 - 10:00 pm

    I’ve always liked the idea of under-frame-rail mounted batteries, but seeing the Tesla news of late makes me question it, especially since things would likely get thrown up there from the front tires if you were to run over anything on the road. 😦

    • #2 by albell on November 9, 2013 - 10:36 pm

      Im thinking the same Marius. Even with some metal protection I dont like how the battery looks down there. Ill see who it fits under the rear seat.



  2. #3 by Gabriel on November 10, 2013 - 6:40 am

    Have you seen the way does it? They add the battery(s) in a swing down box right where you are looking. Think they put a compressor there too. I like the idea, but I also like the idea of keeping the aux battery warm inside the passenger compartment for cold weather camping.

    I don’t think you would ever go “tesla” if you hit something. They have A123 lithiums, and they do go crazy when you puncture them. You don’t see that with AGMs. Hell, then won’t even leak acid with a whole in them. I have mine fitted under the seat. Granted, it ain’t as big as yours, but that’s just the story of my life. 🙂 I have a 105Ah, but I am thinking of moving up to the 4D size when I get my subaru engine in this month. Any weight is hard for my 250k mile 1.9…


    • #4 by albell on November 10, 2013 - 7:58 am


      Yes I’ve seen peacevans set up. Up to two batteries and a small air compressor. They have the tray swing down so that it is accessed from the side of the van. My battery fits too tight in that space to swing it down that way. Would have to hinge so tray drops fore an fact direction.

      Marius was, I think, using a bit of hyperbole when he talked Tesla.

      I’m not sure what to do about location of the battery. It would be smart of me to make a cardboard dummy to do some trial fitting.



  3. #5 by famillysyncro on November 10, 2013 - 8:40 am

    Unless you make a waterproof box for it, that battery should be better inside the van for the type of driving you are doing I think.
    And being inside it should be easier for wiring anyway.


    • #6 by albell on November 10, 2013 - 9:30 am


      Im coming to the same conclusion. Ill be looking at interior locations today (plus 8C here, not raining).


      • #7 by famillysyncro on November 10, 2013 - 10:01 am

        You are lucky but we have a bout the same weather here, I mean add a minus to it, no rain but snow….I don’t think I’ll do anything today…. and we need rest after yesterday wind killer…..


  4. #8 by Andre on November 10, 2013 - 10:47 am

    Great blog and info Alistair and thanks for this information. Just got an 89 Westy and am slowly making small mods to it. Do you have any suggestions for brighter backup lighting? LEDs, backup lights? Am trying to figure out something to do about that. Also, have you by chance come upon a good way to measure the propane level in the tank?

    • #9 by albell on November 10, 2013 - 6:44 pm

      Hi Andre,

      glad you like the blog. I’m open to suggestions about what to do with some of my van projects. I don’t mind some criticism 🙂

      Back up lighting, yeah I know, need more back there especially if you have tinted windows. I mounted a utility light on the steel bumper.


      since then i have replaced the rubber housing lamp with a stainless steel one. A cheap aux light from a local part store. It uses a 55W H1 bulb and while the beam spread is not great, one light back there makes a huge difference.

      If I ever get my aluminum bumper finished I plan on having built in lights. Going to use MR16 halogen bulbs, inspired by this:

      look at the aux lights. Thinking of same thing but recessed in bumper itself. If you look on lighting and mountain bike forums you will also find inspiration from home made lights.

      I like the MR16 idea as the bulbs are quite cheap and bright. Various wattages and LED versions starting to really perform well.

      Propane level? nah, not found a way. Some tanks (but not most westys) have an internal float connected to a gauge. I don’t think a retrofit is possible. There are stick on liquid crystal thermometers that sort of give you an idea of fill level after you splash water on tank. I’m always getting my tank filled, well I think I am going to get it filled, but only a few litters gets pumped in. I think the fill volume is around 12 litters. That does me for 3 weeks camping in summer. Fridge only sips the propane, stove uses much more. But in summer we do a lot of cooking outside on fire.



  5. #10 by Simon on November 11, 2013 - 6:51 pm

    Despite the risk of ceding competitive ground on the power front, I’d better chime in here…

    Good: Battery under the seat (if can make it fir, I’m actually skepticalo of this placement as I’d think that space might be space you want to use for say, your tools or your beers.

    Better: The under the van, between the rails location. The pic you posted seems to show a little more potential space for raising the battery up into that space?

    Best: Wait until you get around to making the tire carrier, then put your battery (and the outside-mounted propex) in the stock tire location.

    On the topic of the propane gauge, not sure what the principle is here?

    • #11 by albell on November 11, 2013 - 7:14 pm

      It does look like the battery would move up higher, but I did jack it up until it would go no further. I think the bolts that com through the floor are stopping it moving further.

      That gas stop safety gauge appears to wok on pressure in the tank. As the propane is in liquid state in the tank, and the pressure above the liquid varies according to external temperature, I’d say the gauge would give an estimate of amount of propane. Maybe better than nothing.




    • #12 by albell on November 11, 2013 - 7:21 pm


      Yes, best place would be spare tire tray. With some sort of crank assist to move the tray. You know how hard it is even with e spare tire.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: