As a lot of my common readers will know, almost two years in the past I set out on a saga to purchase an electrical mini-truck from China. Now that it’s been with me for over 18 months, I’ve had the possibility to place in a lot of superior upgrades to show the truck into a real workhorse.
If you wish to hear the lengthy model of how I purchased the truck, you will discover that in my unique article.
I lately posted a video displaying off how the truck has held up throughout its first yr and a half of near-daily work on my mother and father’ ranch in scorching, humid, and wet Florida.
The abstract is that it’s truly been doing nicely. There’s nearly zero rust and nothing main has damaged (apart from the rearview mirror falling off just a few instances till I lastly put it on completely with stronger glue).
The 5:8 scale mini-truck is probably not very huge, but it surely’s held its personal towards six seasons of landscaping work, trash runs, furnishings transferring, mulch hauling, hurricane cleanup, and extra.
As a lot as I preferred the unique design, there was nonetheless room for enchancment. Once I first acquired the truck, lots of people advised a number of upgrades to make it even higher. To this point I’ve undertaken a lot of them and added just a few private touches of my very own.
Right here’s how I’ve turned what was already a reasonably superior electrical mini-truck into the right ranch or passion farm automobile.
Electrical mini-truck suspension improve
I can’t imagine I waited this lengthy to improve the suspension, as a result of it was the one most blatant shortcoming of the truck. The experience might need been okay on tarmac, however since we use the truck on my mother and father’ ranch as a piece truck within the pasture, it lives its life in a reasonably bumpy setting.
The unique springs have been approach too stiff, so my father and I pulled them out and swapped them for 125 lb. coils. I do not know what the unique springs have been since they aren’t labeled, however I’m guessing they have been within the ballpark of 400 lb.
That is likely to be good for those who’re carrying a few pianos in again, however essentially the most I’ve had is round 700-800 lb. of filth within the mattress. So by swapping in softer springs, the truck lastly had true compression and rebound as an alternative of feeling just like the body was welded on to the axles.
Of all of the upgrades I did, this one most likely had the one largest influence on the enjoyment we get out of the mini-truck. It’s at all times been an amazing work automobile, however now it’s a way more comfy one, too.
Putting in new off-road tires
This was one other good improve for our use because the truck not often goes on the street. In truth, it most likely has put 99.9% of its miles on sand or grass.
The one time we’ve used it on public roads was after a hurricane earlier this yr to do just a few provide runs. It’s not a street-legal automobile, however I thought-about that acceptable beneath the emergency circumstances.
However because the unique tires have been road rubber and would usually slip on moist grass or sand, I put in a set of 4 ATV tires on the unique wheels. Large because of one in every of my readers, Rob Fox, who despatched me a hyperlink to these ATV tires. They labored completely! Nicely, nearly completely.
The tires have been barely wider and simply barely caught on the within of the entrance fenders when in a full lock flip, in order that they most likely added a pair hairs to my turning radius. Nonetheless, the improve was nicely price it for the higher experience in all of the moist and soiled circumstances the truck will get utilized in more often than not. And the truck is so darn nimble on account of its slim width that I don’t actually discover the change within the steering radius a lot.
Oh, I additionally hit the hubcaps with some black spray paint. The unique chrome was a bit too flashy for me, so now they’re “tactical.”
Including a tow hitch
I’m frankly shocked the truck didn’t include a tow hitch to start with. It’s most likely as a result of they didn’t count on anybody to really attempt to tow something with it. However they didn’t rely on me.
As a check, I had initially checked the towing capability by tying a static climbing rope to my mother and father’ minivan and towing 4,000 lb. of Japanese car throughout the pasture. It labored, so I figured it might tow a 1,000 lb. utility trailer with out a downside.
It could end up that the one downside could be discovering a spot to put in the tow hitch. There’s not a lot body within the rear because the mattress is a dumping mattress. So I ended up welding a U-shaped bracket that I bolted to the rear axle simply inside of every wheel. It’s the strongest a part of the truck and made an ideal location for the hitch to bolt onto one thing meaty.
That is one piece of American design that I actually hope the Chinese language will copy, as a result of it actually provides to the truck. I’m fairly pleased with the way it turned out and it appears to be working fairly nicely to date.
Technically there’s no suspension for the hitch because it’s mounted on the axle, however let’s simply say I’m not getting near the truck’s 25 mph prime pace whereas pulling a trailer stuffed with compost throughout rutted-out grassland. For a utility automobile, it appears excellent.
I may also now tow that enjoyable 5-seater electrical boat that I additionally ordered from China. A electrical mini-truck towing an electrical boat — it’s the longer term!
Including photo voltaic charging to my mini-truck
This one was one other no-brainer – a photo voltaic panel on the roof of the truck’s cab might assist trickle cost the battery. So why not add one?
It wouldn’t make sense on an even bigger electrical truck like an F150 Lightning because the bigger motor would imply a single photo voltaic panel would most likely add sufficient vary every day to get you down your driveway. However in our case, the small 3,000W motor is far more environment friendly and so the 50W photo voltaic panel I added makes a measurable distinction.
Relying on the solar stage, that provides just a few miles of vary per day in full solar.
Earlier than I put in it, we needed to recharge the truck from the storage’s 110V retailers round as soon as per week. Now we are able to go two to a few weeks earlier than needing a recharge because the mini-truck will get topped up a bit every time the solar comes out.
Certain, it’s not sufficient to go fully off-grid (until solely utilizing the truck for a few miles per day). Nevertheless it is sufficient to push off these costs to a a lot much less frequent tempo.
A number of individuals have advised me I ought to have gone with a wider panel on the roof and added one other on the hood. The subsequent step up from the 50W panel I used was a 100W panel that was too extensive to suit contained in the cargo rails on the roof, and I didn’t need the panel to increase exterior of the rails the place it may very well be broken. And I didn’t put a panel on the hood as a result of, frankly, I assumed it will look bizarre. I’m all about photo voltaic, however solely to a degree.
Including a mattress liner
This electrical mini-truck isn’t only a present piece. It’s not a grocery getter. It’s not a kiddie carpool automobile.
It is a work truck. In truth, I’d wager it does extra work than half the “actual” pickup vans on the street as of late. I see extra pickup vans hauling groceries than gear recently, underlining simply how pointless they normally are.
However my ideas on way of life vans apart, any truck that does precise every day work tends to get worn in over time, particularly if it didn’t include an excellent mattress liner.
After a yr and a half on the ranch, the mattress on my truck had extra scratches than a cat wrangler.
Curiously, even the deep shovel scratches that went down by way of the paint to the naked metallic didn’t present any indicators of rust. That was superb to me and demonstrated how nicely they coated the metal for anti-rust on the manufacturing unit.
Nevertheless it was time to toughen up that mattress with some paint-in mattress liner. I acquired a gallon of Durabak-18, which turned out to be greater than I wanted, but it surely did the trick.
My dad and I spent a day cleansing the mattress, pulling out all of the plastic plugs and covers, then portray a pair coats of that stuff in. The outcome appears to be like even higher than when it was new. There’s now a thick, exhausting shell lining the mattress that ought to be far more sturdy than the unique manufacturing unit paint.
Now the mattress is even higher than when the mini-truck first arrived.
I’m frankly amazed at how nicely the truck has held up in its first yr and a half. Lots of people advised me it’d crumble in weeks or rust out in months. To this point, it’s completed neither. It’s simply been a reliable workhorse across the ranch.
I’ve completed many of the tasks I had deliberate for it and I’m undecided what different upgrades I can nonetheless add.
At this level, I’m glad to name this electrical mini-truck experiment a hit.
This may not be the proper truck for everybody, however for some of us, it’s excellent. And our case occurs to be excellent.
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