Monday, March 5, 2018

I was feeling grotty!

Today started in a fairly lackluster way with my being slow to move. Then during the day I was plagued by an upset stomach. Thinking critically about it, I’d bet that was down to yesterday. I spent most of yesterday helping to replace a badly rotted floor in an unused trailer. I bet that I was breathing in mold, mildew and other nasties.
In the picture you can see mold on the wall and the floor that’s rotted. In fact there was more rotted floor going right across the trailer. Needless to say, it was an all day job!

So, today I took it fairly easy. Yesterday my replacement USB charger arrived but as I had no more of the cute Radio Shack square red push-button switches I opted to use a paddle switch for the voltmeter. That meant I was short of a switch for something else. As the accessory socket with USB charger insert had no light on it and since I had an illuminated switch, it made sense just to have the illuminated switch working the cigarette-lighter USB socket combination. I opted not to use the duel voltage USB socket that I’d bought. Well, perhaps not this time. There might be a future use for it.

Today my extra 1A fuses arrived so I spent quite a few minutes working through my fuse boxes, replacing overlarge fuses with 1A. I need some 4A fuses but I don’t currently have any. I’m not sure they make them so 5A has to suffice.
I spent quite a while working on the inside of my box. I totally lacked right-angled connectors so at one point I just had to pull out the soldering iron. Needless to say I got interrupted twice by the call of the throne.

Once that was completed I had to install it which is where I suddenly had to rush off to the car parts store because I had run out of - of all things - blue male connectors (like the one on the red lead at the bottom of the photo). Infuriatingly I needed just two for this project. I’ll need more for the digital code lock for the front door though so now I’m good.

While I was at the auto-parts store I asked about a cam lock for the fuel door and a locking paddle latch for the battery door. They didn’t have anything but one of their displays looked old enough to be priced in Confederate money.  Their suggestion was to try an RV parts store. That might be highly priced but it’s worth a shot.

Assuming I add no further circuits inside the bus, the projects remaining are:
1. Door code lock
2. Battery door lock
3. Fuel door lock
4. Tidying wiring for the keyed door lock and the solar input.

I had a think about the air vents and have another potential solution. That involves using a gravity flapper and a hood. I think to be honest I’m probably going to have to pull my vent tubing out and redo the vents. That was why I returned the vinyl plank I’d bought and didn’t proceed further than trying things. I had a feeling I was going to have to redo it fairly extensively.

I’m rather glad I’ve got a light over the desk in the front of the bus. It means when I clear construction debris and materials, I’ll be able to move my swivel chair to the galley and sit there to blog or whatever. Speaking of the galley however, I realised there’s another task or rather two. The first is to make some method of holding the microwave down and the other to put a bar in front of the fridge so that it doesn’t slip out of its hidy hole.

This bus has come a long way since my first panicked look at the newly emptied interior. I remember looking at that and wondering what I’d let myself in for. Meanwhile in my conversation with the fellow in the car parts store, I found that his dad had converted several busses over the years and that 3 years was about how long it normally took single-handed. Maybe I should have used both hands? No - scrub that - this is a family oriented blog!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Oops. Out of essentials!

The first thing I wanted to do today was to install my digital door code lock. I picked out a site for it that looked ideal in fact a couple of sites but then found that the 8-32 bolts I was going to use were unusable due to the size of the bolt head. I needed countersunk screw type heads not hexagon heads. That was, I assure you, quite a disappointment.

Putting the door code lock to one side I looked again at my purple box. By adjusting the cigarette lighter USB charger portion I was able to slip a switch in beside and have some room to spare. That was excellent. It was not the kind of switch I desired so I hunted in my parts box. I didn’t find the switch I was after but I did find one that was suitable. As the USB charger has no LED on it, I opted for an illuminated switch - just to draw attention to the USB charger being on. It all looked quite fetching. More so after I attached my lamp fixture to the top of the box in order to make it an all-in one unit.
Looking around for cable wrap, I found I just didn’t have enough. I’d had ample a few days ago but that was before doing a shed load of wiring. Clearly as I needed cable wrap, 8-32 bolts, 8-32 stop nuts and some earth wire (white), it was time to go to the store. There were things I should have bought but didn’t such as a right-angled female spade connectors and so on as they’d not made it to my list. They didn’t even make it to my list when I had to return to the store a few hours later for floorboards for a trailer that’s being repaired.

So, having got the bits I needed, I attached the box to the wall, putting cable wrap through. Now the cable wrap was 3/8 whereas what I needed was really 1/4 but beggars can’t be choosers. Besides I’d have had to drive to Harbor Freight for the right cable wrap when Lowes (hiss, spit) was less than a quarter of the distance.
That was about as far as today allowed given that other things are happening around me that are pretty disconcerting. The two red wires are positive and the two white wires are negative. The negative will just go to the bus body. The two positive will go to the USB charger and the light but as one cable is 14 gauge and one is 16 gauge a bit further back, the 14 gauge will go to the USB charger and the 16 gauge will go to the light. Speaking of lights, I should have bought more LED bulbs.

I’ve still got the connections to make inside the box - plenty connectors to crimp into place and plenty connections to make on the back of the unit. I might have to resort to soldering some connections without having any right angle connectors.
The wiring went from the box through the wall and down the inside of the shower wall to the cabling already installed. It’s not yet completed but with a little effort tomorrow, it can be. If I get to it tomorrow I might even manage to mount my code lock keypad. That would be truly wonderful!

And finally, for all my non-USA based readers, here are two photos from the outside of a Lowes store. Just so that you know what they look like.

It’s a great big builder supplies store that has everything from palates of wood and concrete blocks to tools and garden supplies. Typically - as with most US stores - it takes up the same space as Wembley stadium. It can take 10 minutes to walk from one side to the other of the store.

Let’s see where we are with things still needing to be done...
1. Complete wiring for my purple box.
2. Install front door unlocker codepad.
3. Install lock on fuel door.
4. Install lock on battery door.
5. Replace bad breaker in console.

That’s about it. There are a couple of bits of wiring to tidy but they hardly merit having individual tasks assigned to them. The battery door and fuel door look like being tasks that’ll take a while.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Water and electricity - what a mix!

Today was a broken up day with several service people calling for different reasons. Clearly not a good day to go to the school district to drop off an application! Thus I went to work on the bus during periods between callers (sometimes two callers simultaneously).

The first thing done was to connect the 12v socket to the 12v supply. That just needed a foot or so of cable. Not having any 12 gauge left I made it work with 10 gauge as I had a foot or so of 10 gauge left over. That was followed by deciding to use a 3A fuse in the fuse box. That seemed to power the shower pump pretty well when I tried it.
That shower pump came from Amazon where it’s listed as an Automobile Shower Set. I have to say it pumps very well and unlike my D cell powered shower, needs no priming. There is a leak where the hose goes into the plastic piece that screws into the handset but there’s nothing I can do about that and honestly, it’s very minor. The part that screwed together leaked like crazy until I applied some plumbers sealant to it.

Of course when it came to the actual handbasin that’s where things went belly up. Water leaked from the tailpipe. I sorted that out by removing the P trap and tightening the nut on the tailpipe. That worked pretty well but as I forgot to tighten the P trap properly, my feet got wet again. So, having tightened the P trap properly there was a very slight drip left.
Where the clear Pex hose connects to the PVC I’ve used a garden hose pipe swivel. That seems to leak. I’ll have to replace the connector. Maybe I’ll just get a 1 inch threaded to threaded connector and glue the daylight out of it. That should sort out the drip.

After that my attention turned to the lighting. I had one light switch remaining and my only assembled light bracket with G4 bulb mount had been painted purple for use in the galley. Thus I got another bracket and sprayed it pink to match the bedroom. After that had dried it was a case of mounting it and putting the switch in place. I wish my electrics looked more elegant but they work and they’re safely done. As I’m now totally out of 1A fuses I had to use a 2A fuse. Actually I should buy a ton more 1A fuses and some 2A and 3A fuses.
The light works quite well though there’s no room to put a light shade on it. On the other hand, that light just illuminates the closet and clothing rack area so looking pretty and being kind on the eyes isn’t so important. My desk lights are more important for that as I like to sit and work at my desks.

Because I thought of a light to go in the back closet I ordered some more G4 bulb mounts. I had to order from China because the price for 10 from China was the same as the price of 1 supplied in the USA. Given that that one came from City of Industry California, it’s a fair bet that it’s just arrived on the boat from The People’s Republic or as I call it The Profiteer’s Republic.

Lifting the hood of the bus I found at least one potential site for my digital door unlocker. I’m not keen to drill through the firewall but I suppose if needs must then I will. There are already plenty holes for cables and pipes that have been capped with plastic caps. That’s probably going to be my very next task.

On order are two more switches. One for the back closet light and one for the light over the desk in the galley. I’ve put the USB charging thingy on the back burner for now. I need a different project box. Buying boxes at random seems not to work very well. It’s so hard on eBay to select the right box when half of them are measured in millimeters and the other half in inches. If Radio Shack was still open, I could probably have found exactly what I needed even though I’d have had to mortgage the country to buy it.

While the switches are on their way and there being nothing much else to do on the list I’ll have a go at the digital code unlocker for the front door. I can probably fit the unit just below the engine air filter. Whether I can get in there with the drill is another matter entirely! I’ll have to run the power cable all the way behind the console too. That’ll be just so much fun!

While I was in the bus, I used the new shower pump to spray water on my hands and used the bar of soap in the bathroom of the bus to wash my hands. It was so nice to be able to do that! I think moving away from D cells to a 12v battery was a good idea though I still don’t like to be so reliant upon a single battery.

The last thing I did was to make a fused connector preparatory to connecting my solar input to my bridge rectifier. That just takes a single fuse. I’ll have to work out which fuse to use dependent upon the solar panel in use externally. As I don’t have one, there’s no current need to put a fuse. It’s easy to know which fuse though - divide the wattage of the panel by 12 and that gives me the fuse size so a 100W panel would need just over 8A so a 10A fuse. A 60W panel would need a 5A fuse and so on.

I still haven’t contacted Carolina International but thinking about it, since this bus is a Carpenter and Carpenter made the bodywork, it’s unlikely Carolina International would have anything to do with the battery or fuel doors. I’ll just have to go to Grainger with my measurements. Of course I could always fit any latch and just cut the hole bigger or weld shims to the existing hole to make it smaller. I have no idea how to remove the lock from the battery door though. That is a total mystery!

Speaking of mysteries - where did the daylight go? I look outside the bus and it’s dark. Somebody stole my daylight! I blame the French - they’ll steal anything. They’d steal air if they could work out how to put it in a bottle!
There you go - a view out of the window. See that Frenchman stealing the daylight - just beside the first pine tree? It’s the one in the dark suit with the dark gloves and dark balaclava - not the girl in fishnets with the miniskirt who’s out hunting possums with her 12 gauge.
Don’t believe me that I’m inside my bs/motorhome? Here’s another photo. I actually love sitting in here. It’s tobacco-free, quiet and peaceful. Most of all - I built it all. I’m actually rather proud of having done absolutely everything on this bus all by my little old self. This is something that not many people would have the patience nor the willingness to learn new skills to do.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dark and rainy today.

Today wasn’t a long bus work session. I’d have liked it to be but a long-time friend of mine had just been laid off and thus gave me the opportunity to meet with her and get her to be my reference for a job I want to apply for. Needless to say as I went to meet her in my working on the bus clothes (read not suitable to be seen in), I couldn’t then rush off to drop off the application.

Returning home, I did work on the bus a bit. Connecting my light to the existing fuse box for illumination, I worked on the fuse box and installed all the existing wiring. I didn’t install the wire for the second bedroom light nor for the back light. The back light I need both a switch and a bulb holder in order to install.
The power is connected and all the current circuits are connected though as yet there are no fuses in place. I’ll probably have to order a ton of 1A and 3A fuses. Those little multi packs of fuses and even the bigger multi packs contain massive fuses but it’s very hard to obtain the lower amperage fuses. I’ve connected 5 circuits. Those are, in order, the shower, the spare light, the second galley light, the galley USB charger and the code-lock for the front door.
I’ve installed the 12V socket that I got in one of the car parts stores a week or two back. The black (earth) wire is connected to the bolt on the other side that’s bolted through the seat rail. The bus body is my earth. I have yet to run a wire from the socket to the wire entering the bus. I had to switch out the connectors on the wires as they were totally unsuitable.
As it was raining hard, I had to spray the bracket for the bedroom light, inside the bus. I found a nice piece of plastic packaging that worked well to shield everything else from my spray paint. I’ll have to respray tomorrow (and I hope it’ll be dry tomorrow). Actually, tomorrow I’ll have to squeeze in a quick trip to the place to drop off the application I need to make. If I get that job, I’ll be paid more than I was paid in my last job for doing pretty much the same thing but working for a different district.
As a trial, I put the switches in my new switch box. I’m not really happy with it but I’ll have to see how it all goes. I do need a pushbutton switch on the voltmeter. I might just switch out and get a totally different box. That box wasn’t cheap but it has features that I’m not happy with. It’s also way too big. I’ll do my best though. I think one of my drilled switch holes might have shifted to an awkward position while I was drilling but I’ll see. I find project boxes are very hit and miss. Sometimes things go in them just fine. Other times they’re way too small or way too big (This one is way too big) and then it’s a 50% chance that the drill will skip when I’m making the switch holes.

Given that I want to install an extra light in the back of the bus, it would make sense to get a smaller box just for the USB charger and the voltmeter. Then get two extra switches to use for the lights. Those switches I bought are not cheap but they feel really solid. They feel like they’re going to last and keep on going. The dinky little Radio Shack switch I bought in their closing sale works but does not have a satisfying solid feel, feeling fragile. It’s like the difference between a meat cleaver and a toothpick!

Tomorrow, if I have time, I will install the wire for my shower and might install the second bedroom light. Given some decent weather, I might even look at the door code lock. Particularly I might look toward mounting it and passing the wires back into the cockpit.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ventilation as good as it’s going to get

Today I spent an absolute age removing one of my mushroom domes and clearing away the plastic mesh and mosquito mesh underneath it. It wasn’t eventually time well spent. Here’s why...

When I put my trusty anemometer on the inside of the ventilation system with the mushroom dome and mosquito mesh in place I had a reading of 1450 feet a minute. Without the filter or a dome this rose to 2500 feet a minute. Putting the dome back and using no filter I had 1850 feet a minute. Without a filter but with the louvered vent I had 2500 feet a minute. With the steel louvered vent I had from West Marine, I was down to 1450 feet a minute.
I really liked the West Marine vent. Mind, I liked the louvered vent too. Now the louvered vent came from Lowes (hiss, spit) and was listed as paintable. Thus, I prepared it by painting it grey like the rest of the bus. That, as it turned out was a total waste of time as though it’s “paintable”, it must be paintable in the same way soap is paintable. It can be painted - but the paint won’t hang on there for very long. I think Lowes (hiss, spit) is running some kind of scam there.
On of the other problems was that the louvers didn’t close properly every time. That means it’s an entry point for outside critters. No thanks! I have enough to deal with the critters that come in anyway without extras. I had to exterminate a spider the other day. I don’t know whether it was a friendly spider or an noxious spider but it was exterminated as the chance of it being venomous was too great.

In the end I put a piece of mosquito mesh over the hole, screwed down the vent cover and trimmed the mosquito mesh before repainting and recaulking with silicone caulk. Unless something else comes along that looks like it’s going to do a way better job, the ventilation is staying as it is.

Yesterday I started to mount the new fuse box but ran into wiring on the other side of the wall so I stopped, not wishing to damage insulation and cause a short circuit. I also realised I should have a light in the back closet. It’s not essential but would be nice. Today I installed my new fuse box after making sure the attaching bolts would not run afoul of any wiring.
The box is top left. It’s not connected to anything right now but soon will be. As darkness was falling I rigged up a temporary work light. That worked so well I did consider making it permanent. I’d have to buy another G4 bulb mount though. The pack I had, had 5. I’ve used one each in the bedroom, bathroom and galley. I’m planning a second in the bedroom and the galley. That makes 5. The closet thus might not ever get a light.
As can be seen I had a huge bundle of cables to put into a sleeve. I did that but though I had light in the back, I needed daylight to find some of the tools and parts I needed. I wanted to clamp the cables to the ceiling using the existing torx screws that hold the ceiling panels in place. My torx screwdriver bit is somewhere at the front of the bus as is my ratcheting screwdriver. The plan is to connect the cabling to the fuse box then as before, add each circuit as I complete it.
I set to and drilled holes in the last of my eBay project boxes. This is the one that was advertised as steel but which is actually quite solid aluminum. I’ll mount it vertically but I do need to visit the store. I have two switches - which is fine. One will be a light switch and the other will switch a USB charger on/off. That’s the USB charger that’s currently winging its way from California, the last one from China being just plain wrong. I need a pushbutton switch so that might be a trip to an auto-parts store. I quite like my rectangular red push button switches but as I got those from the now defunct Radio Shack, I don’t think they’re going to be available aside from at high prices on eBay.

At some point I might revisit the extraction vents but that’s not a current plan. That’s a plan for some future point. Right now I’m getting the bus conversion completed so I can work on other things. I’m using my in-between jobs status as good time to do this.

Things remaining to be done:
1. Complete the current electrical section
2. Install the key code unlocker
3. Tidy the keyed unlocker wiring.
4. Connect the solar wiring from the external solar input.
5. Put a cam lock on the fuel door
6. Put a locking latch on the battery door.

Yesterday I visited Grainger to see if they had the latches I was after. They certainly had latches but as it was a warehouse everything had to be looked up on their computer. The only latch found was a horrendous price and the cam latch couldn’t be found either. Overnight I thought about it and decided that I’d probably be better asking the International dealer on the other side of Columbia.

My next idea for the ventilation system involves off-the shelf components like a drier outlet that has a steel tailpipe. That will involve probably redoing my interior carpentry on the inside of the vents but what the heck. I just need something that allows me to pump the full 2500 FPS of air out. It gets pretty hot in summer!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

What a horrible day!

Today started off with my going to work on making the rear ventilation fans more efficient by changing out the mushroom domes and replacing them with flapper vents, thereby eliminating the need for a mosquito screen. That didn’t actually happen.

It took an age for me to find my reserve adjustable hole cutter - never mind the original! When I did, I carefully marked out a piece of plexiglass that would have been ideal to mount the new vent to and over the old vent hole attachment (that sounds very confusing and it is but I don’t feel like explaining).
So I started cutting with the hole cutter which looks like some kind of medieval torture device. The cutter snagged and tugged the plexiglas so I gently freed the cutter without realizing I was still slightly touching the trigger. The thing spun one time and hit my thumb with a whack. It wasn’t that bad of a whack but it hit my on my thumbnail.
Uh Oh! See that nice crack reaching 2/3rds of the way across my thumbnail and quite deep down? That’s going to be a major problem for the next probably 4 - 6 weeks until it grows out. So, I had to down tools and head to the store for some nail glue to try to hold the nail from breaking and falling off. Anyway, I got some nail glue and I’ve glued it. I also got some fake nails as well - just in case I need to reinforce my broken nail. That’s going to be somewhat strange as I don’t wear fake nails. I suppose I could cut a strip off one and glue it on.

On my way back from the store I found the mail had arrived. In it, the USB charger I wanted had arrived. Or had it? This is the kind of USB charger I was expecting.
 That was what I ordered. A simple USB charger. It just fits in place and behaves itself. This is what I use to charge everything!
Sadly, that is not what arrived. What arrived was a 12v socket with a mini USB charger that slips inside. That is most definitely not what I wanted and will not fit within my specifications. Bloody Chinese being devious and dishonest again! If I was to use that piece of junk then I’d probably one day pull that USB thing out and try using the socket as a 12v socket then wonder why my fuse kept blowing. The problem is I have wired the system for a 3A socket, not for a cigarette lighter socket. I would have used heavier cabling if I’d been going to use a cigarette lighter socket.

Now I have to source another USB charging socket and pay more for the privilege of it coming from somewhere in the USA. This socket is just trash as far as I’m concerned but worse than that - I worked to pay their wages to send me trash! So, hunting around online, I’m now $6.79 poorer and have what I hope will be the correct thing on the way from California.
I think I can honestly say that a fake fingernail looks just wrong, particularly when you can see these hands do plenty hard work. So, stymied twice today - on the ventilation and on the internal wiring. The only projects remaining after those two are the digital code lock, tidying the wiring for the door unlocker and putting locks on the fuel and battery doors. It has to be Friday the 13th somewhere!

And to cap it all, I was sitting in the bus with the lights on yesterday when suddently the charge controller switched everything off. It’s a 20A charge controller and I had on at the time my USB charger (max 3.1A), my 150ma CPU ventilation fan, my 2.5W room light and my twin 2.5A fans had just turned on when the power went out. Now that’s a grand total of 8.46A assuming the maximum. Most certainly not 20A. Even allowing the fans to have a starting current higher than 5A (which they do), even that doesn’t explain it as the fans are on a 7.5A fuse that has never blown. Even more wasckily, I flipped the main power switch off then on again and everything started back up again. What caused that to trip is unknown. When you can’t find the cause or identify a cause, it’s ample evidence that the French were behind it all!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Dirty horizontal gymnastics

I got down and dirty today. In fact I got absolutely filthy, rolling around on the ground under the bus. I had sand everywhere - my jeans knees are now dark brown and I even have sand in places where sand should never be!

So, today I got jubilee clips fitted to all the Pex connections under the bus. That’s all four Pex connections so four jubilee clips. The clip that fought me so much yesterday under the sink went in ever so sweetly today. In fact none of the clips dared to put up a fight today!
After that it was time to get down to the day’s work - something I’d planned for completion days ago. I started by repainting the brackets from yesterday but the paint just didn’t set hard. It remained soft. That was a bit of a disappointment so in the end I used a different paint.
The hole to put the solar cable through the floor was easy enough. That went perfectly and the solar cable went down. The problem came when it was time to fit the bigger of the three mounts. There just wasn’t sufficient clearance. In the end, feeling somewhat exasperated I did what I said I wasn’t going to do and simplified matters by mounting the 12v socket in the side of the skirt.                                                                                                                                  
That having been completed, the cables were secured to the skirt with a bolted cable grip. The loose cable was fed back through the floor so it’s all nicely fitted. I’d added an extra cable so that I have four wires in the cable sleeve. That gives me options to do other things without having to make extra holes in the floor in the future.

Then it was time for the water inlet. That was probably the easiest thing to fit. I used far less tubing than I’d anticipated too. No photo of that but the water goes in through a pressure regulator that brings the pressure down to 40psi. It goes up through a half inch pipe to my sink sprayer with a stop valve midway. As I’m planning on jerry cans of water rather than un underbody water tank, this should be far better. I can just use water when I’m connected to a supply for small things like filling kettles, shower supplies etc.

Aside from the cable going from the defunct speed sensor under the body into the transmission housing, that’s about all I have to do that I can think of, under the bus. I’d like to remove that cable but since I’ve already seen wasps out and about, it’s not going to be long before wasp nests become a problem under the bus.

The next thing to do will be my ventilation outlets. That will involve climbing a ladder and all kinds for fun stuff like that. The goal will be to do the ventilation outlets tomorrow. To that end I have a supply of Bondo, some vinyl plank and the remains of my PVC glue.

The internal wiring and fuse box can wait until a wet day. I also have to find enough cable to be able to extend the wires sufficiently. That might mean a trip to the store but I rather hope it does not. After the ventilation outlets I might make some intake screens though I haven’t decided yet.

The next thing will be the keypad entry system. That’s going to be really nice when that’s working. I’ve already identified a couple of places where the keypad can be sited unnnoticed. You would imagine after my rundown of the things to do yesterday that the list was shorter. Sadly, it’s the same length as I remembered I want to put a keyed lock on the battery door and one on the fuel door. No lock is foolproof but they deter the idle thief.

What with it being Friday night, my having had a dirty day and the washing machine having just been repaired, I have a Friday night date with the washing machine! In fact I’ll probably spend the rest of the evening naked under my robe! Oh the small things that give us pleasure in our 50s. 20 or 30 years ago I’d have been out painting the town blue!