A follow up.
I took the power inlet to my local body shop, one that I know, have used before, and trust. He looked at it and said he could drill the hole easily without ruining the paint, and that considering the design of the inlet and the flatness of the body where I want to drill the hole, it shouldn't leak. The inlet has a gasket and is designed to be used for this purpose. Cost: probably $27.
Also, since it will be located in a location I can easily observe from inside the vehicle, I can monitor if it starts to leak. I will be opening that panel each time I use it.
My primary concern was not damaging the paint or leaks, but avoiding running a 120 volt line either underneath or through the car where I couldn't see any wear or damage from vibration that might cause a short. 120 volt wiring is a lot more dangerous than 12 volt, and cars are not RVs, which have construction more suitable for 120 volt wiring. I had already rejected coming in through the grill or beneath the hood for that reason.
Coming in through the back-left panel, I can connect a short length of extension cord right to the backside of the inlet and store it inside the panel door. I see a place where I can cable-tie the cord for stain relief, and all the "wiring" will be constantly available for safety inspection each time I use it. This back-left location is where I want to bring in AC power anyway for my intended uses.
I thank you all for your concerns and good advice. I appreciate and like knowing all the risks. However, this new RAV4 turns out to be long enough in back for my wife and me to sleep comfortably, and I am on a mission to make it into a micro-RV. We are both avid wildlife photographers, and want to camp nearby our projects. As I get older, I am more concerned with the risk of missing a wonderful day outdoors than the paint or rust on my car.
I am having a lot of fun adapting this vehicle. I've read what others have done with their RAVs and found much inspiration.
In my research, I've discovered a lot of great tips. For example, the distance between the console and the back door is just long enough for a tri-folding futon mattress to fit. Trim a few inches off the sides of the two foam pieces at the foot, and it perfectly fills the space. (BTW, an electric knife, available at Walmart for less than $10, is a great tool for cutting foam.) I removed the back seats and made a platform for a strong, flat, sleeping surface and to provide storage space beneath.
I plan to post more details later about my micro-RV conversion experiment.
Thanks again for your help and suggestions.
Also, think of all the fun I can have when I point to the electric plug-in port on the side of my vehicle and tell friends I converted the car to electric power.
Last edited by Vandermast; 01-23-2013 at 08:23 PM.
Reason: added a sentence