How I am insulating my step van

I’ve been using a mix of cork and Havlock wool to insulate my step van which has a cargo area of roughly 11.5 feet x 7 feet. I got two boxes of wool and 2 rolls of 1/4″ cork underlay.

And if I remember right the cork roll which is 4′ x 50′ was near $200 and the wool a similar price per box so I spent close to $800 in insulation. There are cheaper ways for sure but I don’t like that polyiso foam $#@!.

Yeah I like it au natural Chuck.

How I am insulating my step van walls

The Havlock wool out of the box stinks and is kind of dusty and has particles of stuff in it perhaps even sheep doodoo and I found one dead bug in it so it’s not perfect and getting it to hold up is tough. I saw some real opinionated Chuck on Youtube that railed hard against it and pushed for spray foam.

I have no interest in spray foam, but one thing he did point out was that the wool can compress in the walls over time and sink and I don’t want that to happen so one thing I’ve been doing is stapling it to wood, sometimes small wood pieces glued to the van with sikaflex 227.

I am happy with my choice. I want a warm van since I will be spending some time in the mountains riding/living.

Another smart thing I think I did (to pat myself on the back) was put pieces of the cork underlay over the steel ribs in my van that you can see. Cork is a good acoustic and thermal insulator and if you just attach wood to the frame then cold from the outside will easily pass through the steel to wood to your interior.

But if you use a material like cork or rubber or maybe some others it forms a thermal break and acoustic break vs. a thermal bridge.

Originally I was going to use bike tubes here. Bike tubes are made of butyl rubber just like that Kilmat and other brands of that sound proofing mat.

Old bike tubes are easy to come by for free if you go to a bike shop and ask. I was also going to cut these up and use them like sound proofing mat but found the form is not easy to work with. When you cut them up they won’t lay flat and I didn’t find a good glue for rubber to metal and I had the cork which is a lot nicer.

I did however use the bike tubes to weather strip the sides of my rear door that I made and they worked good for that.

Using recycled wine corks in my van’s wheel wells

And then I even collected 3 or so boxes of wine corks to use. I ground/chopped them up which was a big pain in the you know what and used them in the wheel wells.

I thought about using them in the floor, but I spread them out and had enough to cover about 2/3rds of the floor so I didn’t think I had enough. At the time I didn’t think about the fact that when you grind it up it expands so I probably could have done that and built a little frame and put the ground cork between them.

I was thinking I would lose head space though. At the time the only wood I knew about to build a frame with was 1×2’s and those are 3/4″ thick and like $9 a piece. Now I know they have cheaper furring strips that are only 1/2″ thick and like less than $2 a piece.

I could have went this way but like I said cutting up hundreds maybe even close to a thousand was just so time consuming and then I got a blender and it kind of worked but not that well. I boiled the corks first which expands it and then makes it a little easier to cut.

So I got that idea from some channel on Youtube that got “crumbled cork” (which you can purchase), built a subfloor and used that for insulation. So you can save yourself some work if you want to buy crumbled cork.

I liked the idea of using recycled cork and I collected a lot of it. So it’s possible to do but you’d probably want to grind it up and find a way to do that. If you just placed the corks side by side they are all irregular and come in different shapes so I thought of that, but it wouldn’t be very airtight.

Instead on the floor I used 2 layers of cork 1/4″ underlay. Unfortunately my floor is still cold in the winter though I didn’t quite get my stove figured out yet. But it’s doing better now I welded the seams this spring and put an air intake on it which I am pretty stoked about.

But yeah most people I asked on reddit said their floors were cold despite whatever insulation and plywood they put on it.

I got some good wool slippers though.

If I did it again I might put some sort of air gap in there with the cork, but yeah you lose head space and I want the tallest ceiling possible. Ideally I want to be able to do sun salutations in my van which had me thinking of raising my roof or putting a raised sky light in there.

But IDK messing in the roof can cause leaks which I now know. So do so real carefully.

To be updated…

Creating a perfect round window for my van

I started off making it with a jigsaw, but that didn’t work so well. It was far from perfect. Then I tried using a jig-like compass for the saw that would keep it in alignment but it would bend the blade and go off course.

I was stressed and frustrated and then I posted some question on Reddit and someone recommended a scorp. Something like an awl for scratching but I didn’t take it serious but then he said there’s a video and I saw it and thought I would give it a try.

I had some scrap pieces of aluminum lying around and put something together using that, a draw handle and self-tapping screws. It’s kinda like a compass.

The first circle took me about 3 hours (if I remember right) of going round and round. But I ended up with a perfect circle. You can see the metal dust on my gloves.

The 2nd one took maybe around an hour. What I did was sharpen the end of the scratching screw. I made it real sharp. The first one I left as is. It was much faster and I was excited I got two perfect circles. I thought for sure my round windows would be all crooked!

There is one screw near the wood handle that cuts and a longer screw that goes through 3 layers of aluminum.

They do have hole saws but you are going to pay for a big one. Maybe $50+. The advantage of doing it this way is you can choose the size. You can choose many sizes if you want.

My 2003 Workhorse P42

This is my dream rig. I was looking for a few years for a step van and there were a few I was considering and all were usually old USPS trucks. I was looking at 1987 Chevy P30’s (6.2 diesel), the 2002 Freightliner MT 45 (24 valve Cummins), the 2003 Workhorse P42, the 2004 M Line (Mercedes 4 cylinder) and a few other Chevy P30’s in the late 90’s.

I wanted a diesel and I preferred the look of the P42, but also looked at all the above models and test drove an ’87 and that one I also liked. I think I preferred the dually’s and the 2002 and 2004 models were single back wheels. I had to search high and low to find this. None were anywhere close to where I live. I spent a good year and a half looking.

There were some close calls, like one time I flew all the way out to Bellingham, Washington to buy one and then I had some difficulty getting all the money out of the ATM in the same day to buy it which apparently annoyed the seller. He said he had to go back to Seattle for school since it was a Sunday and then he suddenly ghosted me. Totally stopped answering emails and calls.

To get this one I had to travel 2000 miles all the way to North Dakota from New Hampshire to get it and this was the first vehicle I ever bought.

Where do you get these?

All these old USPS vans start at auction sites like Govdeals, Govplanet and other auction sites and this is the first place to look. Then some people get them and resell them so you can also look on Craigslist and Marketplace. I found mine on Marketplace who got it from someone who bought it from someone who bought from someone who got it through an auction. The USPS won’t sell directly to consumers.

Playlist on my van:

Things I’ve done on it:

No experience fixing cars, trucks etc up. Just want to learn how to do basic maintenance.

  • Changed the oil/oil filter
  • Changed the fuel filter
  • Changed the air filter
  • Changed the transmission fluid/filter (it has a 4L80E trans)
  • Fixed the door lock
  • Fixed the sliding window lock
  • Removed a ton of rust especially from the rear end painted and then did an oil/wax coating, next year a diy fluid film with mineral oil, lanolin and citrus solvent
  • Removed the liftgate (sold finally after a year or two)
  • Removed the back roll up door (also for sale)
  • Changed the PMD (pump mounted driver which is a common problem on 6.5 diesel engines)
  • Replaced the fuel filler dish
  • Cleaned many of the electrical grounds
  • Changed the glow plugs which was a big pain and 1 got stuck
  • Changed the wiper pulse module. They turned on by themselves one day and wouldn’t shut off.
  • Changed the wiper fluid tank and wiper fluid motor as that stopped working.

On my to do list:

  • Change differential fluid
  • Figure out ABS light speed sensor issue
  • Fix valve leak, ehhh

Stuff mechanics did on it:

  • Replaced the sway bar links
  • Alignment
  • New front tires (commercial tires are pricey!)
  • Installed shifter cable (I should of done this!)
  • Adjusted plates in the steering so they said
  • Fixed turn signal, bright lights lever by replacing some spring
  • New shocks

More posts on my step van.

Liftgate for 2003 Workhorse P42

This liftgate I got came with the 2003 Workhorse P42 I wanted. Don’t need the liftgate so it’s for sale. It is in fair condition. Check this video out to see it in action.

The model name is a Waltco MDR160AF model#396s.



It is roughly 88 inches high and 87 inches wide. Between the brackets for bolting is just over 89 inches (see photo above). The platform is roughly 84″ by 46″.

It has the original instruction manual as well. It has been detached from the van.

It works but it also needs some work to keep it going like one of the sides is bent so it interferes with it going all the way to the top smoothly.

It’s got rust. I removed some of this and painted it but it needs some love and probably a new panel on the back as that thin sheet metal has a hole in it.

It has almost all of the wiring except the switch which is a simple toggle switch.

This is located in Monroe, NH.

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