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On-Board Fresh Water & Hot Shower (in a Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited)

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i've just started setting up an on-board fresh water & hot shower system in my JKU - yes Gadget is slowly becoming a miniature RV!¬†ūüėú


my previous rig had a hot shower setup which only got used a few times but was still a nice luxury. that system just pulled from a portable water container but i learned a few things with that attempt which should help me out this time around.


the priority for this new setup is having a fixed-tank and everything mounted so that running water is always quick to access. in fact, the heat exchanger will be the last step after everything else is working.



the previous rig:






  1. convenience: on-demand water is just super handy whether you need to wash dishes at camp, or clean your hands after a lunch on the trail. quickly rinsing your feet and flops before crawling into a sleeping bag is nice as well, and a full hot shower after several days of camping can really rejuvenate you and extend the desire to stay out exploring!
  2. free up space to carry extra fuel: i currently have 4 gallons of water in an Expedition One Geri container (similar to a Rotopax). it's mounted on my tailgate tire carrier upside down with a gravity fed spigot and works well, but i'd like remove it so i can carry a fuel container there.

    the new water tank will be under the rig, so an incidental bonus is lowering my center of gravity a bit. (i always carry water but will only sometimes have extra fuel on the back).



the "before" water setup:




the plan (components overview):


  1. small fixed plastic water tank mounted under the Jeep.
  2. RV gravity water inlet to fill the tank from any portable container or a garden hose, etc.
  3. 12v "on-demand" (pressure switch controlled) RV style pump
  4. easy-to-access permanently mounted pull-out hose and sprayer
  5. (eventually) a plate style heat exchanger powered by engine coolant with a thermostatic mixing valve (keeps the hot water temp consistent)



Edited by theksmith
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the water tank (part 1)


i've been measuring and acquiring parts for this project for quite a while, but only just began to make any real progress on putting it all together. figuring out the fixed water tank was the first step but most of the options i saw at first were discouragingly expensive.


i was inspired by Dan's blog on "The Road Chose Me" and knew i wanted to install my tank under the rig as well. i'd already relocated my evap canister, giving me that same empty space to work with between the rear drive-shaft and exhaust. i don't want to modify my exhaust (remove the resonator), so i have slightly less room than Dan ended up with.




this article from You Me & The Parks details yet another similar setup. the 7 gallon tank they selected looked to be a perfect size, but the total cost with shipping was going to be over $150. a custom tank shape could get me closer to 12 gallons, but those start at $300 or more.


i eventually found a similar sized (but much cheaper) 7 gallon one on Amazon. at under $40 shipped, i was willing to deal with it being slightly taller. it shouldn't hang down any lower than the OEM fuel tank even with a skid plate.


7 gallons isn't much, but it's more than enough for a "Navy shower" and i can always carry additional water cans to refill with if i ever do a really long trip. much larger and i'd want a baffled tank anyway. 


so here's the tank with fittings installed, the 1-1/4" fill hose, and some 3/8" braided clear tubing which will be used to plumb everything:




i still need to fab a custom cradle and skid plate to mount this thing. i do enjoy difficult rock crawling trails at times, so my solution needs to be much beefier than what was in those 2 articles i linked above. there's a design in my head, but i just haven't found the motivation to start a major cutting and welding type project yet.


this was my shopping list thus far:



Edited by theksmith
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getting water out: sprayer & switch


i wanted to put the water access at the front of the rig for several reasons:


  1. my tailgate table and fridge are in the back and so i didn't want to create a mud puddle right where i need to stand a lot at camp.
  2. the engine has to be running to get hot water and so setting up a shower tent near the front will prevent from breathing as many exhaust fumes.
  3. mounting both the output and the heat exchanger near the engine bay means less hose to run.


i first considered putting a recessed cup type transom shower (boat wash-down sprayer) in my aftermarket front bumper - much like this one:




however i think the bumper is too shallow for it and i didn't really want to drill a big hole in there.


i did still end up buying a marine sprayer. i liked that this one from Scandvik is very compact and has a constant-on feature by pulling out the trigger (in addition to the normal intermittent spray by squeezing) - plus it's black!






i ended up mounting the sprayer behind the bumper where it could still pull-out, similar to my original plan but without the container. it sits to the side of the winch, right next to one of my air ports. i also ditched the hose it came with for a longer more flexible black shower hose.




i made a custom holder for the sprayer and hose.




the mesh bag lets the hose bunch up in one area when stowed, preventing it from slipping out through the holes in my front skid plate.




the little holder is made from a piece of aluminum and a plastic tubular spacer i found in my miscellaneous parts drawer.






the bag is polyester which should hold up decently, but i also coated it with Scotchgard Water & Sun Shield (left over from a previous project). the sprayer itself is meant to be mounted exposed on a boat deck, so it should survive the elements as well. Gadget is lucky enough to spend most of her parked time inside a garage anyway.


i bought a triple-sealed switch from K-Four to control the pump, along with a small 12v LED indicator lamp from Oznium. they were mounted to another piece of aluminum and attached next to the sprayer.





the whole setup blends in well and isn't particularly noticeable to a casual passerby.




but when i want water, i'll be able to just pull the sprayer out and flip the switch.




the shopping list for this portion of the project:


Edited by theksmith
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i went with this inexpensive 12v on-demand RV/Marine pump which flows 1.1 GPM - plenty for general use. more than a couple GPM and you'll run through a small supply of water quite fast. also, the faster the water is moving the larger the heat exchanger has to be.


EDIT: i wasn't happy with this pump and swapped it for a Seaflo...


the relatively low PSI cut-off is also important since all the barbed connections can be finicky (leak-prone) with higher pressures.




these little pumps aren't particularly weather-proof so folks often mount them inside the cab. i didn't want to run lines through the tub or worry about an interior leak. my engine bay is also a little crowded, so when i noticed there was a bunch of empty space under the front cowl, i thought it would be a perfect spot for the pump.




it looks a little sloppy right now because i left extra hose for routing to the heat exchanger later.




i ran the suction hose from where the tank will be, up along the tunnel (next to my extended rear diff breather), and then up the middle of the firewall. this seemed better than routing it near the side of the engine bay, since that would have put it close to the exhaust headers.




i cut the piece of weatherstrip at the top of the firewall so i could run the hose to the pump without pinching it when the hood closes.




the output runs along the top of the passenger fender and then down to the front bumper-mounted sprayer, following the same path as my winch power cables.




the power to the pump goes from my Bussmann fuse/relay box, down to the switch (next to the sprayer), then back up the driver side to under the cowl.




after all this was together, i stuck the suction line in a bucket of water for a quick test of the system.




additional items bought for this round:



i also go through a ton of zip ties on projects like this. i've found these black exterior grade ones from Home Depot survive both sunlight and higher temps pretty well - you can find them in the electrical supply area (near the wire nuts, crimp connectors, etc.).


Edited by theksmith
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Looks good Kris.


Great component research and links as always 

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went down to Advanced Metal Sales (I-17 & Deer Valley) yesterday to buy a piece of steel plate for the bottom of the water tank mounting bracket.


i was able to find a remnant/scrap piece of 10 gauge just a little bigger than i needed which saved me from having to buy an entire 4'x4' half-sheet. i paid $35 including the charge for shearing it to exact size.




hopefully i'll have some time today or tomorrow to get started!


Busy Let'S Go GIF by VH1




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Lookin' good Kristopher... ;)


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so i made that heavy metal sled looking thing and needed to attach it to the Jeep somehow... btw, i think "heavy metal sled" would be a great name for a band that plays death metal remakes of classic Christmas songs - someone get on that!


i bought four 10-inch galvanized boat trailer L-brackets and square U-bolts/nuts meant for adding rails to a "3x3" trailer frame. i figured using u-bolts to attach to the JKU's frame cross-members might be easier and safer than drilling into anything.




here's how they attach:




one of them hangs where that crossmember is at an angle (in the tunnel), so i needed to bend the bracket. the 1/4" thick steel wouldn't budge with a BFH and vise, so out came the Harbor Freight 12 ton press!





at first i just added rivnuts into the sled's side rails and bolted the L-brackets to the outside of it.




however, that made it just a little too wide... you can see here it's about as close as i could get to the exhaust but still dangerously close to the driveshaft's rubber boot.




keep in mind the exhaust needs a little wiggle room since it's on rubber hangers. the driveshaft also moves side to side a bit when you articulate - in fact, that boot can get ripped by the OEM evap canister skid that usually sits in this same spot once you have a lift.


i was more worried about how close things were to the rear flange. i eventually plan to run a 1350 double cardan shaft and its yoke/flange will be larger than this factory stuff.





my solution was to move the brackets to the top of the rails (and inward).


instead of welding feet to them and then bolting them to the rails again, this time i just welded the brackets directly on. i did have to grind all the coating off all around the joint... welding galvanized metal releases fumes that can make you reaaaaally sick.




moving the brackets up and in gave me plenty of room. now the entire contraption has even more clearance than between the shaft and OEM fuel tank.





one thing i did that might be over-engineering was add a 1/16" thick rubber sheet between the skid and plastic tank. my thinking was that with the skid only being ~1/8" thick, it could get some dimples from banging into rocks and so the rubber is there to help prevent a sharp metal peak from wearing a hole in the tank.





an item that probably is actually necessary was to add a heat-shield to the side of the plastic tank that sits near the exhaust. the shield is basically aluminum foil sandwiched to fiberglass with an adhesive back.




 i used Gorilla tape around all the edges as the adhesive wasn't sticking to the plastic that great.





the tank is pretty captive, but just to ensure it wouldn't rattle or shift even slightly i bent a section of 1-1/2" x 1/8" thick aluminum bar to form a hold-down strap running lengthwise. a long bolt at each end of the strap threads into rivnuts in the skid.




so here's the final design... however, most of these parts are just tacked in place, so now i have a BUNCH of welding to do!






shopping list:




Edited by theksmith
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Nice work Kris!


Your timing was perfect.  I was just looking for some adhesive heat shields material for a project I’m helping a friend with.

Thanks for the link

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