Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rain stops play... again!

This weather is ridiculous. Hot and sunny one minute then pouring with rain and thundering the next. How am I supposed to get anything done?

The sum total of today's work is nothing much. I went over some of my welds again with a different rod. Then I filled in the two screw holes I drilled yesterday using my welding rod. Then I ground my welds smooth and drilled better placed holes to attach my CPU fan. I only drilled two holes because it's not a high stress application. I added a pair of brackets to the CPU fan mount that will allow me to install a separate top on my ventilation duct.
Then an epiphany struck me. Instead of making a square box structure, I could take a piece of flat steel sheet, weld it in place at the bottom then bend it upward to make a natural curve that would ensure ingested water would find a way out. Cutting the sides would be more interesting but welding shouldn't be any harder. Of course, by the time I'd grabbed some steel sheet to cut, it had begun to rain and I had to hurry indoors.

Talking about ideas, I looked into water heating. For $100 approximately, it's possible to buy an electric instant water heater. It takes 27 amps but my breaker boxes could be readily rewired to 50 amps. I have a 20A cord that could be replaced by a 50A cord. There's nothing remotely challenging there. I'd been thinking of adding a water inlet anyway. There's nothing to say hot water has to be supplied to the handbasin and not just ported in a jug from the shower.

Similarly, I've been considering a flush toilet rather than my current dry toilet. I'd have to install a septic tank but now that my welding is getting better, I see no reason why a modified beer keg could not be used. I rather suspect that whatever I flush into a beer keg would be far better than what was in it originally.

There is no limit to the upgrades it's possible to do to a motorhome. This ventilation system was unplanned but given the 100F inside yesterday, seems necessary. Once it is done, I might have to add more solar capacity. It's something I'd been thinking of anyway. 

For the moment, the plans are thus...
1. Install ventilation unit.
2. Fix 120v wiring.
3. Wire wiper switch.
4. Get the bearing steamed and greased, the kingpins checked, the pedals sorted out and work the short out of the electrics.
5. Retitle as a motorhome.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Harbor Freight didn't have it!

No Saturday is complete without a trip to the hardware store. Today it was a trip to Harbor Freight to look for some 309L welding rods. These are barrier rods that allow me to weld stainless steel to mild steel. Harbor Freight had only 6011, 6013, 7014 and 7018, each of which is fine for its purpose but not for what I wanted to do. They did, however, have a multi pack containing two grinding disks, three flap disks and 5 cutting disks. That proved a valuable find!

I continued my hunt for welding rods but while Northern Tool had 308L and bronze rods, no 309L. It was the same story at Home Depot and Lowes (hiss, spit). In the end I didn't find my 309L rods but I did find some 312 rods at Tractor Supply. They were horribly expensive!

Back on the ranch, I pulled out my stainless tube and found a spare stainless sink tailpipe. The tube screws into the tailpipe. My idea was to weld the tube to my ventilation box. Things are in constant flux though. As I cleaned up my blobby welds I realized there are various alternatives to my plans. Of course, if I'd built the thing from plastic planking, I'd have been done and dusted a while back! I decided to go durable though and that means steel and welding.
Looking at the stainless sink tailpipe, I realized I had found my ventilation inlet. All I need do is to make a 1.5 inch hole and pass a new tailpipe with a nut through the floor. It's straightforward then to put a tube between the two tailpipes. This could even be as simple as a piece of large diameter Pex hose pipe held on with jubilee clips.

The holes for the fan didn't go in the right place, sadly. I decided to drill two holes rather than 4 because it's not a high stress activity. As the nuts for the number 8 bolts are somewhat small, it's not possible to weld them in place. That had me redesign my vent a little. I am designing it so I can replace my fan if required or even remove it and replace it with a small but potent bilge blower. Today aside from the two holes (which I might redo tomorrow), I decided to add a flange to the top of the unit that I can screw a top onto. I prepared all the surfaces and will get onto that tomorrow. The bottom also needs to be removable in order to also facilitate easy fan replacement.
The temperature outside the bus was way cooler than inside. Inside it was 100F while outside it was 80 or 90. When fresh air is coming in, the temperature will be much cooler. The shower tailpipe will be a great ventilation inlet as it can be stood on without issue and can be laid flush with the floor. Indeed, when I next visit the hardware store I might get a larger diameter tailpipe for the bus interior as I feel I might yet end up with a bilge pump.

In my redesign of the top of the ventilation unit, I decided to make the top removable in order to make access to the fan easier. That allows me also to upgrade the pipe at the top of the unit to a larger size by simply making a new top plate. That will allow for an upgrade from 1.5 to 2 inches for a 2 inch bilge blower.

I was beaten today by the heat, humidity and mosquitoes. Thus, after planning my flanges I headed indoors. Tomorrow I shall weld together the rest of my filter box structure, weather permitting, and make a start on the top and bottom. The door is going to be very simple. I'll just solder a nut to the back of the flange

that I'll install on the edge of the filter box. Rather, four nuts. Once the door is bolted on with lock washers, all should be fine. For security, I suppose I could use 1/4 inch torx bolts. The door can be very simple - a rectangle of steel with a single vent and a rib that presses the filter into place.

One of the other things I got today was a set of small grinding wheels for the pistol drill. Those will be handy for cleaning blobby weld on the inside of my frames. I'll try to clean those tomorrow too.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Welding again

Today started with a plan. Yes, I have them occasionally! Anyway, the plan was to work on the ventilation system. Had I the bravery to put roof vents into my bus, a powered ventilation system would be unnecessary but I'm not going to poke holes in a perfectly good roof fir whatever reason!

I started by welding a small square of angle together. I felt really proud when I'd done it. Then I noticed how warped my creation was and then how one angle wasn't right and I couldn't even fit the CPU fan the box was designed for. So, out came the angle grinder and version 2 took shape. Now the reason it was off kilter could have been due to the angle maker I bought from Harbor Freight. While it gets the 90 degrees right, the horizontal hold can slip a little.
Above, you can see the fan holder beginning to take shape. The plan is to have the fan at the top and the filter on the front of my ventilation unit. It's done this way to try to keep water out of the mechanism. The next challenge will be a vent and filter changing door. For that I'm leaning toward a removable door that presses the filter into place and just screws on.
That's the unit so far. I was wondering how to attach the fan. I'd been thinking of a spring clamp. Then somebody suggested making the bottom removable and using ordinary screws. Well, I could do that but M5 is way too big for the holes in the fan. 10-24 is also too big. I'll have to try smaller bolts. The best solution would have been roof vents but as my bus was not equipped with emergency escape hatches. Thus I have to do what I can. This might not be the full solution but it should help. The white roof and the heat extraction fans have already helped. If necessary, I can always upgrade the extraction fans to something more powerful. For $30 each there are CPU fans that claim 200 cubic feet per minute. My bus interior is 24 feet by 6 feet by 7 feet approximately or around 1,000 cubic feet though it'll be less because of stuff inside. That'd take two fans at a combined 400 CFM around 150 seconds to expell all the air in the bus. For the mention though, I'll go with what I have planned.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bring me some wine!

Today being wet and arc welding not being the sort of activity those desiring a long life expectancy should carry out in rain or wet weather, the plan was to work inside the bus. Originally the idea had been to work underneath the counter and fix the faulty wiring on the one socket. The rain and general dismal nature of the day killed that idea though. It wasn't really possible to see. Mind, I am also exhausted after the working week. Driving school busses for a living really takes it out of me. It's the kind of day for a jug of wine and something not too complex.

As the bus badly needed tidying inside, I set to. Rather, I would have set to but needed containers for all the loose bits and bobs that have been floating around in cardboard boxes. The bus looked like cardboard city inside! A trip to Dollar General was in order where they had two packs of three plastic food boxes. Just the ticket! Needless to say, I also had to stop for fuel. My little SUV isn't bad at 19mpg but 18 gallons (which is what I usually put in) doesn't last more than about a week. Thank heavens fuel was only $1.95 a gallon!
I set to, filling plastic boxes with bits. I decided one box would hold metal and wood screws, another metric stuff and another imperial. Most of my metric stuff is M5. I had another box for odd stuff like brackets and hinges and yet another for unsorted random bits that were lying around. After a while, I was amazed. I could actually see a patch of countertop. Well, I threw out a couple of boxes of absolute junk. A couple of dead bugs, plastic packaging, dull razor blades etc.
This tidying lark is definitely not for the faint of heart. Once I've done tidying, I'll have to go through everything in the bus again. I'll have to decide which clothes to keep and which to donate. The same for a lot of other stuff. I'm overloaded with a lot that's just plain junk. It's very different from the day I arrived in this world with not a stitch of clothing or the way I arrived in America with just one suitcase! The aim though is to clear up construction debris at the moment. I need to be able to see what still needs attention.

As far as I know, things I need to do are to add a forced air ventilation inlet and complete welding the ventilation unit together. Then there could be security bars added to the back window. I need to touch up the outside paintwork. The wiper still needs to be wired correctly at the switch end and I need to check the kingpins, steam and grease. The last part, steaming, greasing and checking thevkingpins probably needs to be done by a real mechanic. Not a work mechanic who's doing it as a favor but somebody interested in being paid to do it. It costs more but the results are far more satisfactory. I learned a long time ago people doing things as favors etc do a half assed job - the same as those miserable trade deals.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Today was horribly hot at 97F inside the bus. I made the mistake of wearing jeans which didn't help either! Put simply I didn't do much as I spent the day feeling the effects of the heat.

I have had various ideas about putting an outside air intake into the bus. One was to put an intake under the bus. That would have been simple for installation but not for changing the filter. Another was to put the filter and fan inside the bus skirt with air being drawn through a vent through the skirt then pumped through the floor. That all seems a lot of work though!

The latest idea is to copy the existing vent in the side of the bus and pull air in through the side and pass it into the cabin through a filter. After looking at the existing intake, it seemed rather much of a challenge to use it but that might be possible. It merits further investigation.

While I was out today - being my birthday I had the day off from work - I browsed Lowes looking at things for my ventilation plans but ended up buying nothing. I looked casually for plumbing parts but decided not. In the end, the only money I spent was $2.53 in Starbucks for some very mediocre coffee.

Returning home, I cut some more angle iron ready to weld together to hold a CPU fan but did no welding. It was just too hot. Maybe the weekend will be better.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Moving swiftly onward

The other day, in the store, I looked at water solutions. I'd been thinking about plumbing supplies in order to put a simple faucet inside the bus connected directly to a mains inlet. There are so many plumbing parts on offer that the whole thing is looking pretty darned confusing. I decided to let the matter rest for the moment or at least until as I wrote this, I wondered about putting a 5 gallon bucket with its lid securely attached, connected to the water supply but with a float so it acts as a cistern. Water can then be pumped out as needed with the advantage that if the float failed or the water pressure got too high, the lid would pop off the bucket rather than flooding the bus.

Today started with my looking again at my wiper system. The motor was jumping and clonking at one point in the cycle. That, I identified as a bolt that was fouling the rotor arm. A few adjustments later and the bolt was correctly fitted and the arm was no longer being fouled. While I was st it, I adjusted the wiper orientation so it is now identical to the other wiper. There is one tiny fault in that my wiper shaft is not quite horizontal. It's not far off and it does work so I'm not too bothered.

Having done that, I briefly considered fixing the one 120v socket but as it was a fine day, I decided to leave the socket for a rainy day. Thus I thought about the steel angle and steel flat stock that I bought from Tractor Supply. It being a fine day,  I pulled out my angle grinder and my welder. The plan was to make a start on my forced air ventilation system.
In Harbor Freight on Saturday, I'd picked up an angle clamp that would hold two objects together to be worked on and keep them at right angles. I was very careful, welding. I just tack welded since the material then took it out of the clamp in order not to destroy the very lightweight clamp. Once I'd removed the work, I clamped it to a steel girder to complete welding the angle. I had to wait for it to cool before rotating to weld the other side. Each angle was two welds and two sets of waiting. Thus, it took quite some time. Eventually though I was rewarded with a completed frame, even though it was very slightly but totally usable warped.
As can be seen, my little Honda lawnmower engine filter fits very nicely inside, as intended. The plan is to mount the engine filter behind a louvered door on the bus skirt then put a CPU fan behind the filter to blow cool, cleaned air into the cabin of the bus via plastic plumbing piping.
Now you should be able to grasp an idea of the concept. My next problem will be to locate a funnel to reduce the tube cross ection to 1.25 inches in line with the size of pipe I wish to use. I'm choosing that size because that's the size of my hole saw. Bigger hole saws just cost money and I'd really prefer to speed up the air flow anyway, which is what the funnel will do.

Now, I'd been thinking of a door but as I wrote this, I realized I don't need an actual door. A single louver could just hinge upward and be secured by simple screws at the bottom. The only thing I'll have to wait on is installing my ventilation unit. That will be dependent on my forthcoming front solar panels and my being able to get underneath the bus again.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Wiper working

A few days ago, I bought a bronze roller bearing. That, I slipped into the wiper transmission and over the 1/4 inch bolt. The wiper system worked and the wiper even self parks. I'll have to carry out more adjustment because the motor arm is in the wrong place so the wiper clunks badly. It's just minor adjustment of the motor arm and a bugger adjustment of the wiper arm. This is what they look like right now.
While I was out, today, I bought some steel angle to weld together to make a holder for my Honda engine filter. I'd been looking for a ready made door that I could put on the outside of the bus but it seems I'll have to build that too. So, I got a few other bits to help me make the frame etc in perfect proportion. Welding is always tricky! I have enough steel from old fridges to make a decent housing.

In Lowes (hiss, spit), there was a length of 10-3 flexible cable. That will easily carry 30A so I bought the offcut in order to use about 8 inches to fix my one malfunctioning socket. That, I'll probably get to after I've satisfactorily completed work on my wiper setup. That's almost right but not quite. It's just a case of keeping making adjustments. I'm not an expert - this is the first time I've ever done this and I'm learning as I go along.

I wasn't originally going to do any more welding since my welding isn't that great. I'd thought of riveting aluminum parts together to make my new air intake but I think it's going to be better if I try welding again. What I need is a mount for the air filter with a mount behind the air filter for a CPU fan then a door in front of the air filter that presses the filter securely into its mount. Keeping the door closed will be a challenge. I'm considering using a simple slide bolt and fitting a spring behind it to keep it closed. I'll have to modify the bolt slightly in order to make it more usable - unless I encounter a better idea!

The plan with the air intake is just to build the intake with the door, fan and filter then attach it securely to the bus but to leave installing the ducting and the power cable until the critters have all been cleared from under the bus.

As the air filter is 6x4 inches, I'll use a 4 inch diameter fan and put a little funnel to concentrate the air flow into a 1.5 inch tube. That will increase the speed of the air and also allow me to use my existing hole saw to make the new hole in the floor for the air ducting. That might not sound too generous but the bus is small and running consistently, this in combination with my extraction fans will reduce interior temperatures down to around the same as outside temperatures in the summer.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Working wipers

Yes, readers, my wipers are now working albeit with a few caveats.

What was meant to be a quick half a morning job turned into a complete weekend. As mentioned before, the wiper motor that was condemned by the mechanic from work turned out to work. It looks to have a 3 wire connection like that of a Jeep Wrangler. Those connections are fast, slow and park except that it doesn't seem to park. No matter!
I started off by mounting the motor semi horizontally instead of down the hole to the left of the motor. Anyway, it was an all day fight to get this far. It was a case of constant minor adjustments until the system worked.

After I thought I'd finished, the power cables that work my door motor came apart. Those are the same cables that worked perfectly until the mechanic took an interest and adjusted them by adding spade connectors. That took a while to fix.

I ran the wiper off a small 12v battery very successfully. The cables from the console didn't seem to do anything, I didn't have time to check the switch or console wiring today. I suspect I'll have to do more wiper adjustment and replace the wiper switch.

One thing I definitely have to do is to buy a 1/4 to 5/16 bush. The $40 wiper pivot (which I had to modify) has a 1/4 inch bolt connecting the connecting rod to the pivot. It really needs a 5/16 pin but if I put a bush on the bolt, it should work just fine.

It was so nice to see the wiper moving for the first time ever!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

An extremely odd week

This has been a very busy bus related week. I've not had anything stunning enough to be able to write a good blog entry about though. The highlights were...

  • Multiple visits to Radio Shack with their 90% off closing sale. During this I bought a couple of duffers in the form of reed switches that didn't work the way needed and hence the buzzers also purchased were redundant. I bought far more fuse holders and switches than I'll probably use in a lifetime. Then when I went back for more fuses, they'd boxed up their electronics and shipped them to another store, leaving a pair of 5000mah D cell NiMh batteries that looked good value. After I got them home I found they were really repackaged C cells going online for half of Radio Shacks full price. Having said that, they'd be usable in my 4 D cell lantern if I can get another pair.
  • A couple of visits to Carolina Fleet that ended up with my buying a used wiper motor for the bus. That turned out not to be such a bargain as it worked only on high speed and intermittent. Then, playing around, I found the old wiper motor that had been condemned by the work mechanic and which had been lying in the dirt and the rain on the ground outside for the past couple of months actually worked when sprayed with WD40 and powered up.
  • Thus far I've been unable to identify where the brake pedal plunger goes and given the black widow bite of a couple of weeks ago, I'm wary of going under the bus to look.
  • Extra connectors for my ammunition box power supply are on their way. Those were ordered via eBay.
  • While I was at Carolina Fleet, I looked at replacement convex mirrors to replace my clouded mirrors. They had none that matched my vehicle so I looked online. eBay was by far the most expensive place with ridiculous prices. I found I could get a pair, which is lucky because both are bad, for less than $20 though shipping was $15. That price can't be beaten by eBay or Amazon.
  • Work (I drive schoolbusses for a living at the moment) offered me a contract for more work starting in August. My current contract expires at the beginning of June. Clearly I'm worth reemploying but given the low $12 an hour pay for a 30 hour week that's not paid during holidays, it's barely worth returning. Basically it's not a good idea to return unless there's nothing better to do. My sole  goal from working for the school district of learning how to drive my motorhome has been accomplished.
Today I started work on the new wiper system. Given that the motor appears to work, I'm using it. The other motor could work but only if I redrill the mounting holes. One might be mistaken for thinking nothing is happening when I sit around, looking at things but in fact I'm working out various ways of doing things using available tools and supplies.

The hillbillies had used some very thick aluminum which would make an ideal spacer for my wiper pivot. I started by measuring and drilling the aluminum after cutting it to size. Then I had a disaster and broke one of my tools. This is not unusual, given that I'm working in challenging conditions with no vice nor a drill press etc. Fortunately, I don't think it's a tool that absolutely has to be replaced. 

My first attempts prove I'm on the right track. My biggest issue is not having a drill of large enough diameter for the new pivot. Without trying it in the hole on the bodywork I rather suspect I'll have to enlarge that hole too. That'll definitely need a bigger drill bit.

Thinking about the pivot arm being longer, that'll just shorten the wiper stroke a bit. That doesn't particularly worry me. The different connectors is what gives cause for concern. It would be possible though to use a short bolt instead of the pin on the original that's missing on the new pivot. 

I had hoped to get the wiper motor working and installed today but that looks like being a little elusive. In order to get it done tomorrow, a shopping trip to buy drill bits of the correct sizes was in order. Thus, since it was too late in the day to head to Harbor Freight,  I visited Lowes (hiss, spit).

Returning from Lowes (hiss, spit) with an extraordinarily expensive drill bit that cost an unbelievable $20, I quickly set to work and drilled a 3/4 inch hole with my ludicrously expensive drill bit and two 1/4 inch holes. With that, I beat a hasty retreat due to swarms of mosquitoes surrounding me in the dusk.

Tomorrow I shall cut a steel shim to fit over the aluminum. That will build the swivel up to a usable height. After that it'll be time for a trial fitting. Then I'll either need an extra shim or to drill a couple of final holes. It's coming along very nicely! Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to include pictures.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Done some tidying

Although there are things I want to do, I ended up doing only some tidying and nothing much else. If you remember, I took advantage of Radio Shack's sale and bought a pile of fuse holders, switches and so on.

It transpires that the reed relays are normally open. I'd thought they'd have been normally open one side and normally closed the other. As it is, they're useless for my door alarms. That's a shame but I did find they're incredibly loud when connected to a 9v battery. Enough to waken the dead so great for a door alarm!

One of miladys chickens had laid an egg in the middle of the pen where it would be impossible to reach. Rather than leave it there, I decided it would be best broken and then the chickens could eat it. Thus I hunted for my aur pistol. Hunting for the pellets took quite a while, proving just how much sorting and tidying I need to do. I saw plenty stuff kept that would probably be best in the garbage and that's without trying on all my clothes, many of which are too small now. Anyway, the end of the story is I found my air pistol and the egg literally exploded when shot with a .177 pellet. After that I played around, shooting cans before returning to the bus.

I'm still going through phases when I have a feverish temperature. I'm not fully over the Black Widow bite yet though the red patch on my back is fading. The black spot in the center is new and intreaguing but not yet a cause for concern. In any case, while I can afford health insurance, I cannot afford the copay needed to use it!

I looked at the components I'd bought from Radio Shack and could not really see what I had. Everything was wrapped in nasty plastic pouches, obscuring the items and crucially wasting space. I spent a few minutes slitting wrappings with a razor and dumping things into a cardboard box. I'm sure I have far more that needs similar treatment. I removed a full carrier bag of plastic trash from the bus.

The interesting thing is that almost all of the Radio Shack fuse holders have non standard connections. They have 3/16th inch blade connectors as opposed to the normal 1/4 inch connector. The Radio Shack batteries have the same narrow connectors. As luck would have it though, I bought a pack of Radio Shack connectors that actually fit. They're non insulated which I do not like but it is what it is.

My new plan for the console is to put fuse holders into the console and to use some of my new Radio Shack switches in place of my Walmart shiny steel switches. The newer switches have blade connectors and some are illuminated to show they're on. Some of the new fuse holders are illuminated to show when a fuse is blown. That's useful!

Looking at one of my ammunition boxes I realized one would do really well under the bus as a housing for my air intake. With a closable lid it will be far easier to replace the filter. It should even be possible to use ordinary PVC piping as ductwork from the side of the bus and through the floor as an inlet. That would work well for me but it would have to be installed after black widow season is over!

The brake pedal had my attention today. It definitely needs to be lowered. I'm wondering whether somebody has switched it out at some point for a short one. It definitely didn't come from the factory like that. The adjustment is probably going to be at the Master Cylinder. As that's underneath the bus, I'll be leaving that alone for the moment.
I looked but could not see the other end of the brake push rod under the hood. It's probably obscured by the engine.

I think the priority right now is probably cleaning and tidying inside, sorting out and finding tools then sorting my clothes. I know there are a ton of documents relating to an unpleasant court case that I'd been keeping for reference though now that the other party is deceased I doubt there's much point. I've kept lots of other documents too such as sales competition winning certificates from when I did retail. My last employer used to shower me with certificates, most of which I just threw away, fortunately.

I'll have to look into getting normally closed reed switches. The switches etc are upgrades. They're not necessary for normal bus operation. Actually, I'm having new thoughts about the battery position for the rear vents and about adding front solar panels as well as the air induction system. For the moment they're not priorities.

Priorities are to get the pedals correctly adjusted, the short out of the electrics and the underbody steamed and greased. That'll be a mechanics task. The windscreen wiper motor etc I can do myself. That's simple engineering. I'll have to take the hood off the transmission and trace that strange white wire I found a few weeks ago. I would rather have a speedo that's 2mph out than use some add on speedo that's been badly installed. I could also do the installation properly! Things to think about. Retitling I feel I should concentrate on though.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bitten by a Black Widow

When I worked under the bus on Friday last week, something must have crawled onto my overalls. When I sat inside the bus, doing my last blog entry I felt something crawling on my back, inside my overalls and reached up to brush it off. I felt a sharp pain and thought nothing of it.

The next day I didn't feel particularly well and my back hurt where whatever it was had bitten me. Sunday I did one or two completely insignificant things in the bus and was exhausted. I grabbed my thermometer out of interest and came up with a temperature not far shy of 100F. It was later confirmed I did have a temperature. In the evening, the bite mark was spotted. Two indentations quarter of an inch apart in an inch diameter very red, very hot ring with a white center. Looking at pictures of various bites, only the Black Widow was an exact match. That would tie in with the fever and the fact I still have the mark a week later.

Even today, 8 days later I'm not feeling so good. I've worked all week but as work is 3 hours in the morning then 3 hours in the afternoon with a nap in between, it hasn't been too bad. Today I went to a work meeting then shopping. When it came to putting stuff away, I was shattered and almost unable to perform even that simple task!

Today's shopping was pretty simple and consisted solely of Harbor Freight and Sportsmans Warehouse. Harbor Freight had shrink wrap cable sleeving, cable conduit and another steel ammunition box. Sportsmans Warehouse had some interesting water jerrycans but they were far more expensive than Walmart. They did, however carry plenty pistol ammunition so I stocked up with 9mm and .357 Magnum, 9mm is ok for general fun on the range but .357 is my self defense caliber.

Thursday and Friday after work I'd been to Radio Shack where the closing sale was up to 90% off. So, on Thursday I bought a few small things including some reed switches but mainly, two 7ah lead acid batteries. Those will fit an ammunition box and will work as a portable power pack for charging electronics. The reed switches will work with a battery and a buzzer. I had a buzzer already and discovered it was very loud when used with a 1.5V battery. To switch them on and off, only the presence or absence of a magnet is needed. Thus, putting the switch, buzzer and battery on a door frame and the magnet on the door produces a very nice door alarm. I figure an alarm for the back and side doors. The front door would benefit from a lamp that comes on when the door is opened.

No photos. I'm just too exhausted. I just hope recovery isn't going to take too much longer! And before you ask, I have health insurance. I can barely afford the premiums and cannot afford the copay to actually benefit from it. So, no - can't afford to visit the doctor. I just have to tough it out.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I moved it

Yes folks, the battery box has been moved. It was in the closet at the back of the bus near the fans and the solar panels. It made sense at the time. It's now moved to the cockpit where it also makes sense. With the long length of cabling I have taken the liberty of adding a fuse, just in case.

Today I connected all the wires that I'd installed on Friday. Then I ported the battery box to the front and tried to get it working. Oops, nothing happened. Then I noticed I'd reversed the battery polarity at the charge controller. Fearing a blown controller I set the wires right and it started working. Now that was a relief!
So, after all that it was a case of sweeping and moving boxes back to the closet. While I moved them I looked inside. All clothes. I had no idea I had so many clothes! I'll have to have a sort out. There's precious little point in donating to charity and using the donation as a tax deduction. I did my taxes this week and ended up with no tax to be paid and a refund despite the fact that until October I'd been paying zero tax. I don't think donations would have raised that refund any. Mind, I don't think they actually charge tax on incomes under $10K.

The next task will be to secure the batteries in my ammunition box and to add plugable connectors. Yesterday I visited Radio Shack and took full advantage of their 80% off going out of business sale. I spent a massive $7 but this time rather than air-head electronic garbage (the kind of stuff that the high school electronics classes I had tell me would be good but rapidly turns out not to work), I got practical stuff. Some blade fuses and some connectors. They're allegedly XLR audio connectors but the look like they'll handle the small amounts of power I'm using. 
I had a look at my windscreen wiper pivot. It looks very much as though with modification of the original mounting bracket I can install it. The pivot arm is too long but that's what angle grinders are for! I will probably have to weld something to the original bracket but that's really not a problem. Getting it square is going to be the biggest challenge!

I still have plenty to do.
  • Fix the right hand wiper
  • Check the kingpins
  • Lower the brake pedal
  • Install forced air ventilation 
  • Install a water inlet
  • Clean
  • Toss out junk
  • Clear out I'll fitting clothes
I think after I've finished fixing up the battery box, fixing the wiper, lowering the brake pedal and checking the kingpins, it's time to retitle as a motorhome. At the very least, it's time to send off to get it retitled. After I've sent off, I can always work on forced air and the water in etc.

One of my thoughts with the battery box has been to put a second battery box. The first contains two batteries. One is 10ah and one is 5ah. My solar panels at the back are both 10W combining as 20W. Powering fans directly they were pretty good. With a battery and a charge controller they don't go as strongly but they're more consistent. I'm reasonably happy with 5ah.

The air induction fan needs to shift more air. I might be better with a more powerful fan. I don't want solar panels at the front that look like solar panels so I will have to try to find some of the black looking panels. I've seen some 30W panels and if I can put two of those in place I might be ok. One could feed the 10AH battery and the air induction fan. The other could feed a second power box containing the same 15ah but with a double USB charging socket mounted. That would allow me to charge my tablet, phone and a MiFi pad.

Thinking further ahead, it might be an idea to use my Peltier module and to get more Peltier modules so that when plugged into a 120v supply I could have air conditioning. Peltier stuff is horribly energy inefficient but that's on paper. 10 x 12V Peltier elements in series with a bridge rectifier should run well off a 120v line. Each unit consumes I believe 60W for a total of 600W or 5 amps. Building the forced air unit with the option of adding Peltier coolers would be a good idea.

In terms of cost, 10 Peltier coolers plus 20 heat sinks plus heat sink grease will cost more than a standard AC unit, uses more power and performs only 20F of cooling. Having said that, its way more compact and totally maintainance free. On the other hand this could be air-head highschool electronics surfacing 33 years after I left high school. I wonder how many of my old teachers are still alive. I remember the science and electronics guy was Mr Pugh.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Heat exhaustion

Yup. I went out in the heat to work under my bus. It was very hot and I was quickly tired so I worked under the bus then sat inside and drank tea. I alternated like that, most of the day. It was only when I was doing the final work inside the bus that heat exhaustion turned into dizziness.

The upshot of the day is that the cable conduit is now fully secured underneath the bus and a troupe of Japanese Sumo Wrestlers could perform acrobatics from the cables without them coming adrift. I also installed a wire that reaches the solar charge controller. That wire passes through the floor and connects with the extra wire that I put through the conduit under the bus.

No photos today. Fastening conduit in awkward places took most of my time and though there's not much actual work there, the majority of time was spent wriggling into position, contorting my body into position to drive in self drilling screws then to remove the screw, attach the cable clamps with the cable held in the clamp. And did I mention getting a spider bite in the process, battling several wasps that wanted to build nests and trying not to roll on cactus plants that seem to be sprouting everywhere?

So once that was done I put the cable to my charge controller. That was a non urgent thing but as it was allied to what I'm doing anyway, it made sense to get on with it. Tomorrow I might move the battery box to the cockpit, thus freeing space in my storage area. As I was out of conduit, I went back to my old method of attaching cable. I taped it then secured it with silicone seal. By tomorrow the silicone seal will be dry.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Looking wheelie good

On the way to ICU today, I popped into Carolina International Trucks to look for my front mud flap. They found me a mud flap that was the wrong size and then located the right one on their catalogue. Sadly, it was in another branch. Undaunted, I bought the one they had intending to make it fit.

The patient in ICU was looking very much brighter and much more alert. Thus things are looking brighter on all fronts. Leaving the hospital I called in at Lowes (hiss, spit) and purchased a 3/8 inch wheel nut that I can use to secure the neutral cable onto the battery. Now there is absolutely no reason why my batteries should go flat. I can simply disconnect the cable. Though it's not as fancy as using a switch, it's more reliable and cheaper than buying a new switch.

Returning home, I dealt with more wasp nests under the bus. This time I sprayed with Raid as opposed to black paint. It might be abt and roach killer but it seems to nail wasps well enough. That allowed me to get into the wheel arch to measure. The bolt holes turned out to be 1/4 inch and as it so happened I had some 1/4 inch bolts and plenty washers. The nuts were harder o find and I'd all but given up on finding them when eventually they appeared.

The concept was simple enough - cut the mudguard to the right size and bolt it in place. Cutting a quarter inch thick reinforced mudguard however, took an angle grinder. As it was, I cut to width perfectly. Length I had to cut twice as I was too conservative with the first cut. The holes were then drilled after holding the mudguard in place and marking the sites with a drywall screw.

It took a couple of hours but the results are not bad. I have a mudguard and it is bolted into place. Mark one item off my list of things to do!
Also on my list of things to do are four essentials (after I go underneath tomorrow and finish clamping the cables instead of wussing out because of wasps). They are...

  • Finish fixing the wipers
  • Eliminate the short in the right 120v socket.
  • Check the kingpins
  • Lower the brake pedal about 2.5 inches.
After those there are the things I'd like to do which are non essentials....

  • Install a forced air intake
  • Install a water inlet
  • Move the battery for the fans to the cockpit.
  • Install another solar panel
I'll have to have a good clearout too. I have so many leftover screws, bolts, hinges etc that it beggars belief! I'll also have to retitle the bus as a motorhome once the essentials are out of the way.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Almost there!

Today was meant to be a day when a lot got done! As usual, little was achieved but for very different reasons. The holdup this spring break has been somebody going into ICU in the hospital. Not me, I hasten to add!

So, today I went under the bus, removed the old non functioning reversing horn, installed the new one but in a better location and completed wiring and attaching conduit. In the photograph it looks a jumble and there is a connector visible that has no wire going to it. That, oddly enough, is by design. I figured a spare cable might come in handy. I'm already thinking of re-siting the battery for the extraction fans to the front of the bus!
I have two conflicting ideas for the extraction fans. I can either power them from my 5AH lead acid battery and keep the battery at the front or leave it where it is or the second idea is to replace the lead acid battery with AA NiMh batteries. Since the charge controller is programmable, that might be a good solution. I'm waiting for my rechargeable AA NiMh batteries in my door lock to run down so I can test the low voltage level in order to set the low level on the charge controller. Once I've charged the batteries, I'll know what the full level is.

Meanwhile, my work under the bus was halted by the discovery of a hornet building a nest. I don't particularly want to be stung by a hornet or a wasp or any other insect for that matter. America has some rather vicious insects though fortunately nowhere near the variety Australia has. The hornet nest is visible in this photo. The mud spatter is due to having no front mud guard. That's another project!
A few days ago I bought a 10ah battery on eBay. It turns out sadly that it's just too big for my needs. My panels produce such puny amounts of power that it takes forever to charge the 10ah battery though it roars away for hours, powering my extraction fans. Still, that'll be handy for future expansion. I've been thinking of running an air intake, taking cooler outside air and blowing it inside with the fan powered by the sun.
Also, a few days ago, I encountered a strange new light in Harbor Freight. It's an LED worklight with an adjustable angle. Being magnetic, I can stick it pretty much anywhere. I was thinking for underbus work, initially. It's so much brighter than most of my LED lanterns that I'm now thinking of putting some kind of non scratch covering on the magnetic foot so it won't harm my paintwork and busing it for lighting.

The new idea for progress is once the right hand wiper is working, to get the underside steamed and greased by the real mechanics who will at the same time remove the hornet nest and will inspect the kingpins and lower my ridiculously high brake pedal by at least 2.5 inches. The accelerator could probably use work too since it takes a lot of travel to get it above 5mph.

At some point the bus must have been hit by lightning. I noticed an ionized smell in it a few days ago.  Today I found 4 blown fuses. I replaced them. Most things seem to work though I'm having to charge the batteries again. I suspected the kill switch was bad. I've  been hunting for other explanations but none seem to work. Of course, the battery box is close to the hornet nest. What fun! I'll have to go for the original method of battery isolation and simply remove the cable!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The babies have arrived

One baby was a whole week behind schedule due to it being sent by the somewhat useless DHL Smart Post which never really works. The other arrived before time, having been shipped via USPS. As I'm currently under the weather with some kind of bug or other, I'm unlikely to do anything with either item until at least tomorrow and more likely next weekend.

The temperature inside the bus is currently 91F so pretty sweaty actually. I opened a window briefly for a cool breeze then remembered the mosquitoes and closed it. Just before that I'd been talking to my dad over the phone and I'd mentioned a new idea for ventilation. I could put an air intake on the side of the bus and draw air up from a low level, pass it through a cheap Honda lawnmower filter and thus get some really good airflow going. This means more solar panels to power it but since I can get them relatively cheaply, that's not going to be too bad.

On the subject of solar panels, the other day I was reading about a Scottish island which was 90% powered by renewable energy with diesel backup generators. They had solar, wind and tidal energy systems. Interestingly, they found solar in winter barely gave them 10% of the rated output and in summer with 18 hours of sunshine, around 25% of the rated output. That's broadly in line with my experiences. I concluded solar panels were utter garbage if you believed the lies told by manufacturers about their rated power. 

One of my projects involved a wind turbine. As it is, the turbine generator that arrived is next to useless. Half of it - the important half - is made of plastic. It's really not worth my while even trying to build something around something so flimsy. I quietly abandoned that project. 
My reversing horn arrived yesterday. Today I tested it and it produces a lovely loud beeping noise. The old horn is located just behind the rear wheels which seems strange given that it's something needed at the back of the bus. This has a different mounting setup too. I can mount it pointing down. That means water splashing into it can drain out. I'll mount it close to the back bumper, add some more cable conduit and extend my cable. That should take care of the reversing horn problem!
The other thing that arrived was a 10ah battery. It's not a snug fit in my ammunition box so it'll need spacers but my sealed lead acid setup is now at 15ah. That should be more than sufficient to run all the fans I need and charge some USB devices. The plan is still to install that in the cockpit. First priority is to finish working underneath the bus. I still need a mud flap at the front on the left. I still need to add more cable clamps. I still need to install my reversing horn and now to extend the cable to it. I also need to rejiggers the wires from the solar charge controller so I can pass the positive through my available cable to the battery box.

The battery box will be pretty simple. Once I have installed the battery tie downs and spacers, I'll add a fuse for each battery plus a thermal fuse and I'll tape packets of bicarbonate of soda to the roof of the box in order to make any fires self extinguishing. Then I'll have two very simple power plugs which I'll have to solder. The power leads will be external which gives me many more options. I don't want to set out making stuff complicated!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I did it with a lesbian!

Digging through the morass of conflicting ideas commonly known as my noggin, I remembered vaguely that I bought a female to female coaxial connector. A few minutes further, rummaging through what I call my supplies closet which is in fact a series of unlabeled cardboard boxes large enough to hide a body in each one, I found my female to female coaxial connector. The game was on!

Quickly crimping on the male connector for the coaxial, I slipped to female to female on and connected the other male cable. In eager anticipation, I powered up the monitor and touched the new camera power cable to a switch and... nothing. The monitor powered up but no image appeared. It was then that I noticed I'd been holding the power cable to the wrong switch. All those cuss words I just wasted too! Connecting to the correct switch rewarded me with a vibrant color image of the area behind the bus. Mission accomplished!

The next thing was to remount the video monitor. Where is was, was fine but it was at the wrong angle and being a cheap monitor meant the viewing angle was too narrow. I'd been thinking of making a totally new mount - until I found a familiar looking thing in my junk box. The monitor came with two mounts and I'd been using the wrong one until now. Mind, as I was still at the internal construction stage, that wasn't all that important back then. Within a few moments I'd installed the new mount and even centered it correctly (unlike the old mount).

As I'd said before, I decided yesterday what with wasps and hornets etc wishing to build their nests underneath my bus, it was time to rethink situating the battery compartment. That has taken me back to a very old idea of having the battery as a portable device. That allows me to carry it around the bus to use for USB power as well as to charge it elsewhere. Indeed I could even have two battery devices. 

Measuring the one Radio Shack battery, I found it fitted my Harbor Freight steel ammunition box nicely with almost enough room for a further 3 batteries the same size. That had me hunting eBay for more batteries before I ended up with a 10ah battery. Both the old and the new should fit nicely inside the ammunition box. The thought is to have two power connections. One comes from the back of the bus to the smaller battery and I can put some non weatherproofed hence cheaper solar panels up in the window which will also act as sun shades. I alsready have a small panel powering an extraction fan attached to a ceiling vent in the cockpit. There is already also a charge controller attached to the cockpit wall. That had been connected to the bus battery to keep it topped up via a solar panel but what with the constant currant leakage, it wasn't in use.

The switch that doesn't work has been badly connected. In fact it's a very poor design that allows the connectors from the supposedly isolated sides to connect. I'm going to try to insulate that, somehow. The mechanic suggested putting the power switch on the outside of the bus. I'm not so sure. The less there is that idle fingers can touch, the better, in my experience.

As far as underneath the bus is concerned, I need to put more cable clamps onto the cables and add at least one mudflap at the front. I might have to be cunning about the cable clamps. The bearings all need to be steamed and greased. My using a blower to clear the leaves out so that I could work underneath wasn't exactly my brightest idea as it transferred a lot of sand about the place. If I take the bus to be steamed and greased and get the kingpins checked, the mechanics will doubtless deal with the wasps. It's part of what mechanics do. They can also lower the brake pedal to a sane height!

My biggest task is going to be to redo the windscreen wiper. I still have to get myself a new wiper motor to replace the seized one. It's a shame I can't just go to a store and say "I'll have one for a Carpenter 3800" as they just don't make them any more. I made things harder for myself by not buying one of the Chinese all in one units for $40. I had doubts about how good it would have been.  To be fair though, I've not had many problems with stuff from china so my fears may be unfounded.

The list of things remaining to be done is very short now. I crossed off quite a few this weekend by deciding upon simpler routes. This is perhaps the time I need to start removing construction boxes from the bus, putting tools back into the tool box etc. I can honestly say I really hate tidying and cleaning. Sadly, I don't have a maid, a slave or a wife to do that for me.

Remaining to do...
Lower the brake pedal
Replace the right wiper motor and switch and install the new wiper pivot.
Attach the new reversing horn, when it arrives
Check the kingpins
Build my battery power system.
Install a document pouch for vehicle documents.

Then it's a case of putting tools and maintainance supplies away, storing all the other construction leftovers somewhere, cleaning and retitling.

And finally, here's a view from my newly installed camera - the one I installed yesterday.
People have been telling me I need this, that and the other installed such as air conditioning and humongous battery setups etc. I don't think so much of that, to be blunt.

  1. Air conditioning - open a darned window. I'm planning on remaking my solar powered window ventilation unit anyway.
  2. Instant hot water heater for the shower - what's wrong with boiling a kettle of water, mixing it with cold and using my battery powered shower pump or even just a bar of soap and a washcloth?
  3. TV - I don't watch the darned things anyway and haven't owned one for a decade!
  4. Fridge - nice but they use electricity and lots of it. After calculating the minimum cost of running a fridge when not connected to a mains supply in the thousands, I went with a cooler. Of course if I'm plugged in then I can run a simple dorm fridge happily.
  5. Built in cooker - not having one gives me the freedom to use a convection oven, microwave or portable cooktop or even a gas portable cooktop when not plugged in. All cooking uses so much electricity that the cost of running off grid would be in the thousands.
  6. LED ceiling lights - there's no built in power system. Currently the only powered system is the solar powered ventilation. Lighting is provided by LED lanterns that have a quaint charm about them.
  7. Water pump - I'm not keen on slinging extra stuff under the bus to be honest. Thus my water supply is onboard in 6 gallon jerry cans. This has several advantages - easy and cheap to replace and tamper proof are the main ones. 
  8. Flush toilet - nice if you can afford the space to carry water to waste. Too prone to blockage too. Dry toilets have way less maintainance issues and the waste can be buried or thrown in a dumpster!
  9. Heating - I've always been keener on putting on a sweater than in putting on heat.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Getting down and dirty.

Fitting the reversing camera was supposed to be a quick and simple job. It would have been nice if it had turned out that way though. As usual, every problem known to man came along and then a few created by a race of evil beings from another planet for good measure and that was before fate stepped in and Radio Shack did the dirty.

The day started with my fitting connectors to the bundle of wires under the bus. That was relatively easy. The problem came when it was time to attach the video connector to the other end of the video cable. The connector coming from the monitor is male. The connector from the camera is female. I have only male connectors that I can use. I can't see a homosexual connection working that well! If I used a lesbian connector between the two, that'd probably work though - if I had one!

Anyway, after fitting connectors the next thing was to mount the camera. In preparation to mount it underneath the bumper I'd removed the last vestiges of the hillbilly contraption with my trusty angle grinder. It was then that I saw just how thick the steel is and how awkward it would be to mount the camera. In the end it was decided to mount the camera over the bumper, screwed to the body. It was then that even more fun ensued!

I'd been through various ideas on mounting the camera, starting with the most complicated before eventually settling on the simplest - drilling two screw holes and screwing the camera into place. The first hole went well and a self tapping screw made a good thread. The second hole drilled easily enough but the self tapper went in and jammed, breaking the screwdriver. After failing to gain purchase on the head with pliers, I angle ground the head to be easier to grip. Oops I went too far with the grinder and ended up having to grind it flat. Then I tried to drill the screw out in order to start again. The screw proved resistant enough to blunt two drill bits.

In frustration, I used a self drilling screw and burned the tip out of that but got my hole. Using a drywall screw, I cut the thread in the hole. Then I spray painted the bare metal. When the paint was dry, the camera was successfully screwed into place. Then it was a case of connecting all the connectors and putting the cables in conduit before fastening them in place. That was by no means easy either!
Radio Shack is having a closing sale. I'm actually seriously impressed that Radio Shack has lasted as long as it has! I bought a 12v 5ah battery for my ventilation system a year or two back in one of their closing sales. I believe it was a $35 battery for which I stupidly paid $25. Today I found I can get the same battery with free shipping, from eBay for $12. On Wednesday I went to Radio Shack to look for connectors. The door sign advertised they were open but the lights were off, the shelves were full and nobody was home.
As I worked today, I noticed some wasps buzzing around the bus. Clearly I will soon be unable to work under there because they're going to build a nest! As it stands, I need still to replace the reversing horn unit. Other than that I looked at doing something with my battery. The underbus cable is good enough to handle far more than I'm throwing at it from the two solar panels in use.

Given that there are wasps about to curtail my activities, it makes sense to rethink the whole battery issue. I can fit three batteries of 5ah into my steel ammunition box. I can also site that box either under the bus at the back or in the cockpit. The extra wire terminates in the cockpit. Thus, it makes sense instead of the battery box being bounced around at the back of the bus, to have it situated st the front, in the cockpit. I can mix the 5ah lead acid battery with NiMh batteries in two separate storage setups. One for electronic device recharging and one for ventilation. Given that ventilation only works when the sun is shining, I can simply transport the unit to wherever I want to recharge my phone or tablet. It's even conceivable to have two ammunition boxes!

As for ventilation in the kitchen, there's always my window unit fan that I built or opening a window. That actually works quite well, believe it or not! I might make some magnetic screens to slip over the windows though.

What I need to concentrate on next (the new reversing horn arrives on Monday) is the windscreen wiper. That involves purchasing a new switch and a wiper motor. When all that is done, the short in the ABS system needs to be eliminated and my bus will be 100% ready. I could put plumbing in from an outside supply and I could put an external gas supply and a built in cooktop but honestly, what I have will work for now. I do need to sort out the short in the 120v system too. The temporary ventilation system in the cockpit could do with being made permanent as it seems to work.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An odd day

Despite having had little to no sleep last night due to a thunderstorm that caused the dog to decide my head was an ideal place to practice the trampoline. That was followed by work which is still driving school busses. As I partner with another driver, I did the aiding today abd she did the driving. It works well - if she's had a bad night, I drive and vice versa. Otherwise I drive mornings and she drives afternoons.

Returning home after work, I squeezed in a nap then looked at the bus. A few days ago, my new video camera arrived. I'd bought it for my backup system, from China for about $5. Today I tested it on my existing system and it worked well. 
The reason for two cameras is so that I can have two camera angles. The first angle is down from the roof of the bus. That shows me how close I am to something I'm backing up to. The new angle will be  rear facing and the new camera will be mounted underneath the rear bumper.

Those with long memories will recall that the hillbilly prior owners welded an I beam underneath the back bumper. When I removed that, I left little bits still welded to various chassis members because the aim was just to remove the big pieces that shouldn't have been attached in the first place. One by one though I seem to be finding removing the remains is in order.
Fortunately, the hillbilly welds were quite terrible. Some just chip away with light taps from a hammer while others grind away easily with an angle grinder. The rest are very flexible. The weld here cut easily while the weld the other end is fairly flexible. I didn't manage to break the other weld free by just flexing the weld. I'll have to get underneath and as I was in my work clothes, that wasn't possible today. That's a job for the weekend.

The goal is to install the new camera underneath the rear bumper exactly where the remains of the I beam are currently situated. 

A few days ago I had to charge the bus battery because the 5A ABS circuit had drained it. The bus started easily today. I ran the engine for a few minutes then stopped it. No problems. Thinking about the ABS circuit, I think I know where the short in the system is located. The horn is crudely wired into a switch on the dashboard. Pressing the horn button on the steering wheel fires the horn relay. The short has to be across the switched part of the relay though where on the horn wire that is, I don't know. It could even be a faulty relay. There might even be multiple faults.

With the extra speed sensor knocked out of the bus circuitry, the rev counter picked up quickly. I'll have to complete removing that wiring. Then I'll have to see if the original speed sensor needs attention and if so, what manner of attention.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Why should that be a surprise?

Today started underneath the bus, completing the task of attaching the cable in cable loom from the front to the back. At the back, there was sufficient length of cable and loom to be able to loop the last couple of feet out of the way and secure it with zip ties.

Along the route, I connected the reversing horn but could not get it to work. That doesn't surprise me considering everything the hillbillies did to this vehicle was an unmitigated disaster. I figure I can afford to go and buy a new horn at some point.

Moving onto the extra speedometer sensor only part of which is present, I removed the dangling wires and moved on. The whole thing needs to be removed but looks so solidly installed that I hesitate to fight with it.

Out of fun, I sounded the horn and set all the neighborhood dogs barking. Then I tried to start the bus. The starter solenoid moved but that was it. The brand new batteries were flat. That was most curious.

Checking the kill switch, it was set to off and was still sitting on the little insulated tray I'd built for it.  Clearly the kill switch is no good. It doesn't look like a cheap kill switch either. To be honest though, I do not like kill switches like this. I much prefer open switches where I can see the blades make contact.
Thus, at the moment, the batteries are on charge. I'll simply unbolt the negative wire that goes to the bus from the switch. That should isolate everything nicely.

In an attempt to cut down on current leakage I installed a physical switch rather than rely upon the on/off/volume switch on my CB. I don't believe that is the culprit but it's a potential culprit. I think the real culprit is the ABS system, given that I never had flat batteries when the 5A fuse to the ABS system was blown.

I've had another look at the mount for my reversing camera monitor. As it is, it's at the wrong angle. I want to put the pivoting mount on that was supplied together with the panel mount I'd bolted to the dashboard. In order to put that on though, I need power and the power cord is in use, charging the driving batteries.

Yesterday, aside from doing a little shopping, I traced the fault on my 120V electrical system. It seems that there's some kind of problem where the cable enters the back of the right hand socket. Wiggling it all killed the short circuit. That's not an acceptable solution, however. I'll probably rewire the right hand socket with new wire just to make dead sure it's done right. I used 30A wire on a 20A socket which was very hard to manipulate. This time I might use 20A and just hope it works well.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What it that?

A short while ago, out of interest I ordered a small generator. I should have known better! This piece of junk came from China. Without even trying it, I can see this is junk. The black part which contains the mechanism and mounts the generator to whatever it's going to be attached to is made of plastic. Chinese plastic is barely stronger than toilet paper so I can see this just isn't going to last more than a few minutes.

Having said all that, it's for experimentation anyway. I want to see whether I can make a small vertical access wind turbine out of this that's compact enough to be worthwhile. I have a feeling I already know the answer is going to be a resounding no.

I've tried solar panels and found them not to produce any meaningful amount of electricity and I rather expect I'll find the same with wind. Having said that, it has crossed my mind as to whether this might work better, coupled to a model aeroplane engine. Producing 12v and charging something like a 12v lawn mower battery could be quite useful. Food for thought!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Have you ever seen batteries this bad?

Those with memories longer than that of the average mayfly will doubtless recall that lighting in the bus is powered by D cells. It is entirely possible that lighting might be upgraded at some point in the future though this is not likely. Thus, in the meantime lighting has been provided by D cell powered LED lanterns.
Today, as the weather was inclement (snowing on March 12 in South Carolina), my attention turned to rewiring the two breaker boxes. Initially, the main breaker was in the cable compartment under the bus and there was a sub panel inside. With later developments, it made sense to bring the main breaker inside. That's where things went awry. For some unknown (as yet) reason, there was a connection between the ground and the white wire.

Needing light to work on the breaker boxes, when at Harbor Freight yesterday, in addition to more cable loom, I got a few packs of batteries. The D cells were intended for my LED lanterns which were terribly dim. They're a lot brighter now! Out of the lanterns came the above batteries. It's noticeable that both the Dollar General brand and the Sunbeam (probably Family Dollar) batteries both failed with very little use. Of more concern was the condition of the batteries. The Sunbeam batteries are very badly corroded. The Dollar General batteries are less corroded but are still not in great condition.

With the newer Harbor Freight batteries, the lanterns were bright enough to work. The old connecting cable was stripped down to just the black and white wires and the wires inserted into cable loom. Then having connected it all, the connection between white and ground still existed. Clearly I had been in error suspecting the cable. Tracing the connection back, it seems to go to one of my sockets. That's actually quite worrying as I'd been using the electrics for a while without realizing the skin on the bus had been live. Still, I've come to no harm so far.

Interestingly, unscrewing the fastening screws on the guilty socket relieved the problem. As I created a problem for myself by putting over code wiring, thus making the cables very hard to handle, resolving the issue became very challenging.

One of my biggest regrets with my motorhome is that I put in a 120v plugin system. Given that I'll only be using 120v when static, it makes little sense to have 120v when I'm not static. I'd have been better off maybe putting additional solar capacity and a gas cooktop. Just keep electricity to low voltage phone and tablet charging. Having said that, its there so fixing it was the order of the day.

The mystery continued, however. The right hand socket appeared to be correctly wired as did the connection to the breaker box. Still the meter kept telling me that socket had a problem with a connection between white and ground, deepening the mystery. Given that I have just three sockets installed, this is just plain annoying. Perhaps the solution will be found another day. Today it is just too cold to want to bother further. I have no idea why the problem showed up recently when I completed the wiring a year or so ago and never had a problem. Even more bizarrely, I tested the wiring with my meter and it all checked out as fine when I completed it and I did not rush.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What is that strange looking thing?

A few days ag, this $18 miracle of modern technology arrived from China. The instructions are completely worthless as they cover everything except how to operate the device. Fortunately that wasn't too hard. The rightmost button switches this gizmo which is actually a GPS speedometer from KPH to MPH and back. The other buttons I'm not too sure about. It comes with cone kind of back projection screen that's supposed to allow the driver to have a head up display but that and the alleged (according to the instructions) counts of driving time, miles covered; the hourly "fatigue" warning and the "over speed" warning are all just examples of the useless faff that manufacturers like to cram into their gadgets in order to make using them unnecessarily complicated. I just don't understand that mentality!

In use, the speedometer is pretty darned good. I tried it today and yesterday. Once I'd figured out that the line of blinking dashes just meant it was hunting for a signal, it was fine. There's no indication as to whether you're in MPH or KPH. You just have to press the button until the speed numbers are smaller for MPH or bigger for .KP.H. As for the other "features", I've no interest in any of them and haven't wasted any time even trying to figure that nonsense out.

This is, of course, just a temporary fix for the bus. The aftermarket speedometer that has been installed is terrible and doesn't work anyway. That's coming off after I've completed my underbus wiring. The two wires dangling down from the transmission are a bit of a mystery so I'll just cap them, roll them up and secure the rolls. They are attached to the aftermarket speed sensor at the moment. I suspect that lifting the access panel over the transmission inside the bus will reveal where the wires go and might also allow access to the allinson speed sensor on the transmission.

The main speedo and the rev counter do work but their functioning is erratic. I'm not quite sure why that is but I have a theory. I rather suspect the hillbillies wanted a reversing horn and that in order to make it work when the bus was in reverse, they added the extra speed sensor. In doing so, they mucked about with the wiring, causing speedometer and rev counter issues. My attemp to get the reversing horn working will be very simple. I'll just wire it directly to a dashboard switch so I can switch it on or off at will. Thus I won't have a reversing horn going off at dead of night with nobody around.

Last weekend I worked a bit on the underbus wiring and strained a lot of muscles. This weekend I want to finish the underbus wiring and remove the aftermarket speedometer junk. I am well aware I also have a windscreen wiper to fix and a short to eradicate from the 120V system. Not just that but I decided I'm going to put a battery box underneath the bus.

My ventilation system works off a solar recharged 12v 4.5AH battery. That battery currently sits atop a paint can at the back of the bus. The plan is to move that battery underneath the bus. Possibly power from that battery could be used to operate my door lock in the future.

I've already bought an ammunition box. That could be used to house a battery bank made from rechargeable LiOn or NiMh batteries. The former is of higher capacity than my minuscule lead aside battery and the latter is non flammable as well as dirt cheap. There's nothing to say I can't have several ammunition boxes and just switch them over, either. First things first though and I'm already thinking of installing a freshwater inlet!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I would procrastinate if only I had the time!

After procrastinating for most of the day, eventually I got down to work. That was pretty much after 4 hours of sitting in the bus, thinking about the four projects remaining to complete. Those are the underbody wiring, the mount for the battery, the windscreen wiper and so on.

Investigating, I found there was no easy path from the inside of the console downwards. There is wiring but it heads elsewhere. Underneath the console is the heater unit. Opening the access panel revealed no easy nor straightforward way of accessing the console nor of passing the wire downwards.

The next thought was to pass the cable in a different direction but all directions seemed blocked by impracticalities. Eventually, with careful measuring I found a small gap of about 3 inches between the heater unit above the floor and the battery compartment under the floor. I carefully used a self drilling screw to pierce where I thought the hole should go on the grounds that if it was in the wrong place, I could just leave the screw there. As it turned out, the screw was spot on in the right place. There was a complication, however.

The end of the battery box and the underside of the floor, where I drilled the hole, is caked heavily with mud. That is a clear indication that I desperately need to put mud flaps on the front wheels. I'll get to that as soon as I can!

I enlarged the hole with a drill bigger than the wire loom but still had difficulty passing the wire through. Silly me, I should have enlarged the hole a shade with one of my conical files that fits the drill. Anyway, I fought with it for half an hour and eventually got enough of the loom through the hole. Then I fastened the top end, leaving enough wire that I can easily connect to switches etc on the console.
Eventually I went under the bus to use my nylon Harbor Freight cable clamps. I went in with the idea of putting connectors in every C section rib but having got as far as the differential, it makes more sense to connect to every rib, just for extra security.

Working around the differential, exhaust and brake lines, the daylight quit on me. That meant pulling out my original LED lantern - the one with the broken handle. That actually helped a lot. My later LED lanterns seem to have killed the batteries already.

During work around the differential, which was every bit as awkward as could possibly be imagined, one of the self drilling screws snapped in two. I've never seen that happen before! It was a case of having to lie and roll in the sand under the bus getting covered thoroughly in all kinds of yuck. I can honestly say that if I never have to work underneath the bus or around a differential again, it'll be too soon!

While I was in all kids of tortuous positions, I took the opportunity to look at my brake lines. Most seemed shiny and new. The flexible hoses looked pretty good too. It's always worth checking out important things like brakes. In a way, I'd really prefer air brakes. It's possible to put them in but retrofitting would be costly. Too costly for a low budget motorhome!

I didn't actually finish what I was doing. I do need to extend the wire for the reversing horn. I also need more cable loom. From now on, work on the wiring won't be as challenging. Where I need extra cable clamps, the cable is already supported so I don't need to fight the cable. As I have said though, I definitely need to add mud flaps. I also need to seal around the hole I drilled using some kind of sealant.

On the whole, today was a success even though work was not completed. Completion will have to wait until next weekend though my overalls definitely need a wash before then! I even have sand in my hair.

Inside my cable loom is a twin 16 gauge cable, a single 16 gauge cable and a coaxial cable. The single cable is to power the reversing horn. One side of the twin cable goes with the coaxial cable to power a camera mounted under the bumper. The remaining piece of twin cable is used for some future application that I have not yet thoroughly decided - though I have some ideas.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Now that's a lot of pussy!

The day started with my being in somewhat of a haze. Work has been exhausting. Getting up at 4AM then driving a couple of busloads of children with special needs to school with a rookie aide is not for the faint of heart. In fact all my school runs, even the afternoon run can be challenging. Yesterday afternoon was even more challenging than the morning as the children were somewhat loud and boisterous. I lost count of the number of f words that were released by the bigger kids on innocent ears!

So, not feeling too much like work, I sat in the bus and looked at the breaker box to identify where the fault is. It's definitely after the main breaker. I'll have another look tomorrow. I have a feeling it could be the cable between the main breaker and the distribution panel. I can replace that with a flexible 30A cable or with individual cables put in conduit. I really don't need more than 30A maximum.

Speaking of conduit, last week I bought two 14 foot conduits. Today I spent a good couple of hours putting cables into them ready to secure them under the bus. Into the conduit went a video cable and a  power cable. There was a cable for the reversing horn and another to connect to a battery. There are two thoughts in progress here. The first is that the power cable could run my front door lock and or conduct power from a front solar panel.

Also a week ago, I bought online a small wind generator dynamo. I will play with that and try to make a small wind turbine, possibly utilizing PVC guttering as a wind catcher. I'm not greatly impressed by solar power. I'll have to see if wind is any improvement.

Looking at my problem wiper pivot, I realized that the pivot arm is an inch lower than on the Carpenter original. That means I don't have to hunt for a ball connector. I can simply attach the arm from the original via a block to the new pivot arm and just ignore the ball connector, reusing the Carpenter pin connector. I knew sitting on the problem for a while would come up with a solution.

Prior to my putting cables in conduits, I spent a good while hunting for cables. I started off at Lowes (hiss, spit)where they wanted $20 for the kind of cable I eventually bought at Walmart for $10. A dishonorable mention must go to Radio Shack. They wanted $30 for the cable for which I paid just $10 elsewhere. Even Habitat for Humanity Restore was expensive. I saw a roll of cable that would have done the job. At $3 it looked a bargain but then I put my glasses on to see it was $8 for cable of unknown length and capacity.

Radio Shack is apparently continuing to close its stores. I can't say I'm surprised. They were a lousy store being expensive, pushy and stocked pure trash. Their electronics and electrical section was useful. The kits might have interested some but their plunge into phones, tablets and batteries was ridiculous. Especially since one could go elsewhere to get things for a third of the price. I can't say that I'll shed a single tear for the disappearance of Radio Shack. Even the jobs that are vanishing are just worthless retail jobs, suitable only for students.

I'm having to close the bus door when I work in it, these days. One of the neighbors seems to be crazy cat woman and has a lot of cats. They have been breeding just about everywhere here. Thus, the whole area is now swarming with cats and since they have 6 litters a year of up to 10 kittens per litter, we are in the grip of a population explosion. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I've been screwing around!

 and had the a long list for years of The first task today was to grovel under the kitchen countertop to complete installing the main breaker box. All that entailed was screwing down an earth wire and screwing the fascia back on the distribution panel. That was by no means easy, I can tell you! It looks good though.
That thick, 30A wire is very hard to handle. I left a 20A breaker in the main breaker box because my made up cable is 20A. Really I should upgrade the cable but for the life of me, I can't imagine using more than 20A.

If you remember, I mentioned a pinhole in the back, above the window. Today having seen the sill immediately above, I realized water ingress would be very unlikely. Thus, rather than fiddle around on something that quite frankly hasn't been a problem, I solved the problem in rather the manner I solved small holes in a wheel arch just before an inspection when I lived in Britain. Then, I stuck pieces of masking tape over the holes then slapped under seal over the whole wheel arch. What I did this time was stick aluminum tape over the hole then spray paint it grey. I don't believe there will be a problem and if there is, I am grown up enough to solve it!

I trimmed a little groove in the wooden spacer on the back of my panel in order to make it fit. Being somewhat lazy, I just trimmed the wood with my angle grinder.  Having done that, it was time to slap paint on the bare wood.

While the paint dried, I pulled out my new Harbor Freight 20 ton jack. What a crazy thing that is! The handle is so short I'd have to lie underneath the bus in order to operate the jack. I'm not impressed by that! I hate taking things back but unless I can figure out a way of using it, I'll have to.
Yesterday -and I forgot to mention this- I tried to unscrew my long handled, jammed riveter. This time it all came apart easily. I cleaned it and reassembled it and now have a working long handle riveter. That would have been useful many times over the last year!

While I'm thinking on the subject of things unmentioned, I'd probably already mentioned that I was singularly unimpressed by the value of my smartphone. That had cost me $50 a month after tax and

$275 to buy. It had lasted barely 3 years before becoming very funky to charge. I replaced it two or
three months ago with a $15 Flip phone. Over the 3 years I'd had it, it had cost around $57 all told per month (including depreciation). My new phone over 3 months has cost less than $20 a month including depreciation. It's a win all the way.
In terms of use, I use my phone just the same for talk as I did before. The difference is I now don't spend forever wasting my time playing with a silly glowing blue screen. I'm not addicted to the blasted smartphone but then, I never was.
As you can clearly see, I've used just 63 of my allotted 300 minutes this month. That's clearly not a major issue. The lady at the phone store was very dismissive of my choice to use the minimum minutes! In fact she was dismissive of my choice to have a flip phone. I don't miss a smart phone. I have a GPS so I don't need a phone for that. Most email is just junk and none of the rest is anything I can't wait a few hours to read.

When I've installed the wooden panel I'll pretty much have completed work on the living quarters. I'll want to install the ventilation battery underneath the bus and might upgrade it to a simple lawnmower battery. They're cheap enough that I can afford to replace one every year! I might also fit a second lawnmower battery to power things like USB power sockets. Now that I'd probably run off an extra solar panel. For the moment, as no extra panel is planned, I might just install two underbody mounts for batteries. Things to think about anyway.

On the list of things left to do.... fixing the reversing horn, stripping out the extra speedometer sensor 
and fixing the original sensor. Then there's fixing the windshield wiper and lowering the brake pedal. As can be seen, the brake pedal is 4 inches higher than the accelerator and could be dropped by 3 inches easily. That would stop my knee from hitting the steering wheel, trying to use the brake, which is a dangerous situation.
Well, it's hard to get a photo that really shows the gigantic step from accelerator to brake. Trust me though... this is not something you want to do in a hurry. It might be fine if you have little legs but for my tallness, it doesn't work too well.  

My final act of the day was to secure the last of the panels over the window. Sadly the last panel has warped a little so doesn't fit flush. Having said that, its sole purpose is to protect the window from objects stacked up in the storage area. Some bars over the window in the door might not go amiss either.