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DIY Day: Windows and Doors

Happy Sunday!

It's a small milestone weekend; this past Friday was Andrew's last day at work, which means several things:

1) We are actually doing the "quitting our jobs and going traveling" thing. The job has been quit. (Jill has about a week left at hers.)
2) Jill's dad has gotten to enjoy exclaiming about his "unemployed son-in-law living with them."
3) We now have so much more time TOGETHER to work on these damn DIYs!

Dodging storm clouds and odd bursts of surprisingly warm sunshine, we made some headway on a couple of projects in the Element this weekend. My--Jill's--project has been making blackout, insulated window covers for each window that are easy to use and effective. We'll be camping in a variety of climates, and will also be keeping our whole lives in our car, so blocking the view while also maintaining the internal temperature is the goal here.

It took minimal Internet searching to find that pretty much everyone with an RV/camper/boat/etc. uses Reflectix as window insulation. As soon as I started working with it, I could immediately see why: it's lightweight, super easy to cut for size, and flexible. I hope it's as effective as it was easy once we're out in the elements! I picked up this roll from Lowe's, and it was the perfect amount to make fitted pieces for every window in the car.

Very accurate, scientific method

I used large sheets of scrap paper (donated by my dad) to make templates of the window shapes. I'm sure there are better ways to do it other than cramming the paper into the corners of the window and tracing messy lines with a Sharpie, but that's what I did. 


After cutting out the templates, I traced them onto the Reflectix, but I was nervous about my less-than-precise sketches so I gave my traced versions an extra inch around. It proved to be very easy to trim the pieces down as needed. The whole endeavor took maybe two hours of work, tops.

Leave a little extra space in your tracing to allow for error!

This shit cuts very easy with scissors!

The driver's side and passenger windows have decent lips around the edges, and we need those to be able to roll down freely when the window covers aren't up, so they are held in just with friction. The softness of the Reflectix is great for just crammin' in there. We decided we'd like to put Velcro on the other windows for ease of use; they also had less of a lip around them so letting them hold themselves in wasn't quite as effective.

Just shove it in there!

We saw online that people are decorating the inside of their window covers and painting the outsides to be less conspicuous, so that will be the next step in the project for us, but at the very least, what we have now is functional.

This eventually will look more cozy and less like we're gonna make drugs inside. Progress, though!

Andrew's project was making a mechanism that will allow us to open our trunk from the inside. Turning over authorship to him. - J

Many moons ago, when Jill and I took our mattress for a test sleep in Bellingham, I noticed something very annoying about our car: If we wanted to get out of our car from the bed, we had to climb into the front seat to open the suicide doors. Realizing how bad this would suck, I decided that one day I would add a latch to the hatch in the back. Well, I finally took the plunge.

My father, always willing to consult on these types of things

Things started off fairly well. One plastic screw was quickly removed, all the tabs came out with little fuss,  and the mechanism operating our door latch was at last revealed.

My father and I discussed a few different possibilities. I was concerned about minimally impacting the door frame or plastic cover, while also making something that would not wear excessively, or be difficult to remove. We fret over the placement of the latch (ergonomics are critical), and ultimately decided on a good compromise between ease of use and impact on the interior of the car.

Hopefully this makes sense..

As illustrated in the above diagram, courtesy of my consort, you can see how simple the design ended up being. A piece of paracord was lightly tensioned between the top of the latch and a hole in the metal of the door. Then a hole was drilled thought the plastic cover and door, so that a threaded rod could be slipped through and attached to the cord with wire. Once assembled, a little upward pull on our custom handle would release the door. Simple, with minimal modification of existing structures, and almost zero friction on the para cord or other internal parts! A win all around; it also turned out to be quite cute....

Custom knob, courtesy of my parents

While there is still a lot to accomplish before our car is ready (like a bed), I think Jill and I both left these projects feeling encouraged. Rolling up and knocking out these two tasks in less than three hours made us both feel like maybe the rest would just follow suit. Our hope is renewed, and we are both feeling pretty good about this. - A



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