Van Build: Strip Out

The van build has officially begun! First things first, lets get ourselves a blank, clean canvas. Hopefully we don't come across any difficult bolts... HA... who are we kidding!

Written By Freedom Strider

On October 7, 2019

Day 1 of our Sprinter/Crafter Van Conversion! Today's first task, strip the van of all its plywood. In order to figure out what we're truly getting ourselves, we need to strip the van down to its bare metal and remove the existing plywood van lining and metal bulkhead. Once the plywood is removed we can start inspecting the true damage. 😄



Our van was completely empty. If it had shelves or any intallations, we would have had to remove them to get to the walls. When starting a van build, it’s best to start with a clean slate. 

Whatever you remove without breaking you might be able to sell, so hammers are not always the best option. 🔨



Having full access to the plywood we began with unscrewing the ply walls. Power tools really do help here (especially if you charge them beforehand).

Don’t be surprised if the screws jam. A fair number of the screws were too tight that we had to resort to a hand screwdriver.

However, if the power tools work, it will make the ply strip quite fast, and your hands will thank you. 😋

top tip

Start with the lower screws first, and work your way up the plywood panels. That way, they won’t fall on your head as you struggle to undo the bottom ones.



Remember that you will need to clean and insulate your doors and your cab area, as well as your vehicle walls.

When removing these smaller panels, we had to be very careful not to damage the door handles and mechanisms. Lots of wires reside behind these panels. ⚡

Also, don’t be surprised if these panels and screws are a bit damp, rusty and falling apart. These are the ones most exposed to the elements.


the wheel arch boxes

Luckily for us, one of our wheel arch boxes came pre-removed for us.

Unluckily, it had been screwed in the same stupid way as the one that was still attached. This meant there was rust, a hole, and another hole, and more rust. Yippie. 🙄

Wheel arch boxes are sometimes screwed with normal screws or with hex bolts so you might need a very small spanner to get them out. Also, the box is held together with nails, so be careful! (they’re probably rusty too)

top tip

Buying a full toolkit set for your van conversion will be worth it in the long run. It will save many trips to Screwfix (or your choice of hardware store).

It is one of the best things we did because most bolts we encountered had different sizes, head configurations and most of them were difficult to reach places, which meant a lot of different attachments were needed. It will be the best £50 investment you make.

Make sure that the set you get does not skip any sizes… because, of course, it will be the missing size that you will need. 😉


store your plywood

Plywood is expensive! 💰 Even more so, your van is curvy and wonky. When selecting your side cladding in the future, having your original ply to trace the shape will save a lot of time.

Store-bought ply will not fit the contours of your van without some serious measuring and cutting!

You may choose to clean up and reuse the plywood you’ve taken off for your cladding or for other fixtures. Whatever you do, don’t chop it up before you’ve used it as a template.


ousting the bulkhead

Adios ugly metal beast! 👹

The first thing we found out – no matter how many bolts you remove…there’s more.

Secondly, power tools are not powerful enough for about ¾ of the bolts holding the bulkhead in.

Thirdly, the bolt type for these bolts are Torx bolts. Make sure you get the right-sized Torx head, otherwise, you will very easily thread the bolt head (don’t ask how we know this).

Start from the bottom bolts and work your way up until you have removed all the bolts that you see from the cargo side.

Now find a human to support the bulkhead whilst you go to the cab area and look at the floor behind the seats where the base of the bulkhead is standing.

Surprise! There’s more!

Theses are quite a bit trickier to remove and are usually very tight, but with enough persistence, they do come loose. Power tools do not work – you will need a ratchet or a Torx Allen Key to remove them.

After finally removing all the bolts and getting the bulkhead out the van, if it isn’t in bad shape, it’s worth a fair amount (£50-£100) so don’t bend it too much and don’t lose the bolts.

fun fact

Torx bolts… You will find these little (annoying) stars in all VW, Audi, Mercedes… anything made by German manufactures – they love using them.


electrical conduit

We didn’t end up removing the conduit until a bit later in our van conversion, just to keep the wires safe a bit longer (since, you know, it’s there for a reason).

There are no screws or bolts involved to remove this until you reach the conduit over the sliding door. Carefully maneuver the plastic clips out to make sure you don’t accidentally rip the wires going to your backlights (and anything else that might be important).

Over the sliding door, the conduit was held in by 4-6 screws and nuts which take a ratchet to remove and that’s all there is to it.

quick look

Quick Steps Overview:


  1. Remove fixings
  2. Remove plywood (walls, doors, wheel arches)
  3. Store plywood
  4. Unbolt and remove bulkhead
  5. Remove electrical conduit