Fitting an LPG tank system
I recently got in touch with Autogas 2000 Ltd a company that specialise in LPG tank installations on vehicles. Chris over at Autogas was extremely helpful and knowledgable about the tanks and knew instantly the right setup for my Crafter van. They fit and install the tanks themselves or you can purchase kits and do it yourself. After chatting with Chris about the installation I felt confident that I could do it myself and so I purchased the kit that he recommended and it arrived the very next day after I had paid!
The kit consisted of the following:
The 38litre gas tank, the mounting brackets of the tank onto the van, the gas filler hose and connectors, the output gas regulator and hose, the LED contents gauge and all of the fixing and mounting bolts. All the parts looked very well made and of good quality, no shortcuts taken here.
I am going to complete this installation in two stages - Part one will be the fitting of the tank onto the vehicle and Part two will be the interface between the tank and the gas systems onboard.
The kit contains a very professional looking certificate wallet with all of the tank documentation, certifications and also the instructions for installing the tank yourself. These instructions were great and helped me plan out where I wanted the tank to go.
Essentially the tank is to be mounted underneath the vehicles body in a free space. The LWB VW Crafter van I have has many open places underneath it and so it was a case of working out the best place for it to go in order to attach to the equipment inside the van. I chose in the end to mount it about 1m behind the drivers door.
As you can see in the below photo there is a cross member running from the main chassis to the outer B Pillars. This arm is very secure and is where Autogas recommend you fix the tank holding brackets too. The photo shows one horizontal hole already in the chassis and is nicely lined up to the hole on the bracket. The other cross member was the same too.
I lined up the metal bracket and 'L' angle bar up against the metalwork of the vehicle to ensure it lined up ok and worked out which way around I needed to have the 'L' bracket. The two cross members were about 0.80m apart and the tank is about 1.1m long. The key to this part and it really is important - is to ensure that in whatever way you fix the brackets to the chassis they must be far enough apart that they securely hold the tank in place once it is in and that the brackets must not clamp down onto the tank over the welded joints at ether end of the tanks. This is for structural reasons as it would weaken the welds.
By mounting the brackets facing inwards to each other it meant the tank fitted in nicely to the cradle with sufficient spacing at the end. This meant I could now screw the bolts into place on the 'L' plates to the bracket.
I drilled the required holes on the cross members to allow the bolts to go into metal work. There is a metal spacer which goes through the cross members to prevent it from bending and weakening when you tighten it up so make sure the hole you drill is big enough for the spacer to pass through too.
Once both holes were cut I protected them with a good spray of Waxoyl to prevent any rusting. I sprayed inside the metal work too incase any metal filings came off.
I then positioned the brackets into place and put the bolts through the brackets ready to install them into the cross member. Just before putting them through I placed the spacers on the bolt and pushed the bolts into place. Once they were in I tightened the nuts onto the washes. The spacer clamps together between the washers onto the cross member at just the right tightens to ensure a good contact fit.
Once the bolts were tight the tank was slid into place onto both brackets. The brackets were both unscrewed so that the tank would slide in. I then fed the rubber rubbing band around each bracket. This rubber strip helps clamp the tank to the bracket and stop it from moving or rubbing. This was a little tricky to do, but it didn't take more than a few attempts to get it right and then adjust it.
There is a sticker on the tank with an arrow on it which points to the correct mounting location. This arrow has to be pointing upwards fixed at 105 degrees which means the tanks valves should be slightly pointing downwards as you can see by the next photo:
Once I was happy with the location of the tank I connected the filler hose pipe and laid out the cable to see where would be best for it to go. I noticed that the chassis has many pre drilled holes already in place and saw that it would be easy to run the hose through the holes to the rear of the van. Remember to go back to this point later on and protect the rubber that passes through the chassis from rubbing on the metal.
At the rear there is a rubber grommet which goes into the B pillar (side of the vehicle). On my vehicle this services the right side orange driving lights along the side panel. This is also where Chris recommended to install the filler hose as it would be an easy instal.
I marked the centre of the hole with a pilot drill so I knew where to drill on the outside and then my Dad used a metal hole saw to the cut the panel out to fit the filler cap.
A good filling down of the metal after cut is important so that it doesn't scratch the filler cap. The photo below shows silver tape being used but that was because we ran out of masking tape and had to de-sticky the silver tape first as not to pull the paint work off. We also used the file to notch out the two tabs in the rim which the filler cap uses to prevent it from twisting around.
The filler equipment was joined together using the bolts and nuts provided and screwed into position. I did not attach the main filler hose at this point as due to tight space this is installed into you must screw that part on once you have put the fill cap into place. We learnt this after trying it first of all attached! Im sure it is possible, but for us it was easier to take it off and fit from the inside!
As with all of the holes that we have cut on the van we painted it with black bear metal primer and then when dry coated it with white hammerite rust prevention paint.
Make sure you put the hose through the rubber grommet first so that you don't need to cut the rubber too much later on.
There is an internal black back mount for the filler cap, this slots on easy to the cap and there is an o-ring which goes between the two to clamp them together.
The two parts were placed together through the panel work. I applied a small amount of silocone to the outer lip of the cap to help seal it to the panel. Several small bolts need to be screwed into place to keep the cap pressed onto the bodywork. This is very tricky as there is only a very small amount of space inside this cavity and so I had to use a ratchet set which has one of those bendy joint couplers allowing you to tighten the racket from an angle.
The fill pipe must be clipped into position to prevent it from rubbing. I used stainless steel rubber P clips on all the points in which the cable had touched the metal to clamp it down and stop it from rubbing when the vehicle is in use.
Where the fill pipe travels through the chassis I had to protect it well from rubbing movements. I encased the pipe with foam pipe insulation. I then used strong silver tape to fully coat the insulation layer I hd just put on. I then squeezed the insulation on the pipe through the hole. This was a tight fit. I am hoping that this will stop any rubbing. I will periodically check this to make sure it is doing the job still.
Once we were happy with the placement of all of the equipment and that nothing was going to rub on any other part we masked off the main components on the tank. I also cleaned the dust and oil off the outside of the tank to prepare it for the stone chip guard paint.
The final stage to this Part 1 installation is to coat the tank completely in stone chip guard protection. I sprayed the first coat, then waited three hours and sprayed a second coat to really make sure that the bottom was protected from any stone damage.
I am really impressed with how professional and well fitted this system looks from Autogass 2000 now its all in place! (here is a link to where you can get this kit from - Autogas 2000 Vehicle Kits) Part 2 to come in a few weeks when we install the water and heating systems.