Saturday, June 12, 2021

Another leak...

Today I went to work more on the marker lights. The marker light started yesterday was completed using a pair of rivnuts. That worked well. It was all sealed with more of the magic seam sealant.

Following that it was time to look at the second and third marker lights. The second one which was in the middle looked OK but taking the lens off revealed a grounding screw that was so rusty that its head had dropped off. That left a stump to remove which came out after a few whacks with the pliers and some wiggling. After that it was just a case of enlarging the holes and inserting rivnuts then I had to put it all back together using my magic seam sealant.

Not long after doing the second marker light, it began to pour down with rain. That was an excellent opportunity to check for leaks! Though I could see no water, the inside of the back felt wet. I'm not sure why that should be. The only reason I can think of is that either one of my new light additions was leaking (which I doubt) or the seam that has not yet been redone is leaking. I'll go with that for the moment. It was always my intention to redo the seam anyway. 
I started the day by making a tool to put in 8-32 rivnuts then found I lacked a drill bit suitable for the size of rivnuts I wanted to use. However I did have a drill bit close enough to use for some 8-24 rivnuts that I had even though it meant pinching 8-24 rivnuts from something else.

The third marker light will be yet another problem - the heads of the screws are thoroughly rusted. A crosspoint screwdriver would not turn the screw. It could have a square drive but as it's not a priority for today, I left it alone. What with working in 95F in full sun at the top of a ladder, I'm limited in the amount of time I can spend working on things in a day.

Friday, June 11, 2021

A little progress then a roadblock

The first order of the day was to replace one of the reversing lights and to make sure the other was properly screwed down. That all went fairly smoothly and quickly with my being quite surprised to find the backing on the left reversing light had been a thin hardboard shim. That was very strange. My new lights have built-in foam shim.

Just as I was standing back, admiring my work I heard a vehicle coming down the twisting dirt track that serves as a driveway. As the vehicle slowly approached, it turned out to be the postman or in the particular instance the post lady. She handed me the mail and I knew instantly what was in the box I was handed. 

It was the new sticker I'd ordered for the back. Stay back 300 feet. I think my stencil message was probably readable from a greater distance though. I didn't get it quite straight but since the right reflector and right brake light in the lower right quadrant are higher than those on the left, I'm not really bothered.

The next step was to go up on the stepladder to replace the three marker lights. That's where the day ended on a note of abject frustration. The leftmost marker I'd already replaced and had had problems with before. I'd replaced it when I was particularly hard pressed for money and had replaced it with a trailer light. The protective bracket had come off when I was doing that and I'd stuck everything back together using silicone caulk. That, fortunately came off easily. The left hand screw was very rusted and was supposed to be stainless. That had no purchase on the left hand hole either. The right hand screw did bite though. They both came out easily.

Various problems ensued and were mostly resolved. The problem that had me finishing for the day was that the hole for the screw in the new light unit is smaller than the screw and cannot be enlarged. This means the solution is probably going to be to put in a pair of 8-32 rivnuts. I know I have the bolts. I just have to drill out to the right size. In this instance, 1/4 inch. The other issue will be tightening the rivnuts. I'll have to see what I have that I can work with. I have a rivnut tool but it's likely only good with aluminium rivnuts. I suppose by using two wrenches, a long 8-32 bolt, two 8-32 nuts and a washer I could put them in manually.

Well, a one day job turned into a multi-day job. That's standard with this bus conversion. One good thing though about my late night rivnut hunt - I found I'd left a light on inside the bus. That's one of the solar-powered expensive LED bulbs and though the mount was warm, it showed no signs of failure. Switching to bayonet bulbs was the way to go.
One of the tasks I had that I was not looking forward to was digging out the expanding foam that I'd sprayed in the cable compartment in order to try to cut down on heat. Pulling it out with my fingers took an age and I only pulled out what was necessary.
Eventually the cables to which I needed access were free of expanding foam. That xylene foam is a total nightmare. I would recommend anybody considering using it for anything to have their heads examined!

So, successes and frustrations. I'm slowly moving forward. When I have the lighting all sorted out - especially the roof mounted side marker lights that I believe are leaking - then I can move on to replacing the leaky roof vent. Once that's done it'll be time to put panels over unused windows then to mount the second battery and its flame shield before fixing the right wiper mount and moving on to completing the brake lines and getting the tires changed. There will still be minor internal electrics to work on.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Counterfeit conspicuity tape

 Ebay is a great resource and a great way to find rare and unique products. Sometimes, however, things don't go quite as planned.

These four conspicuity tapes all came from eBay. The amber one on the left is from a vendor called johncatrader2. These are the horizontal lines on the side of the bus. The vertical lines are the middle amber roll. That, came from eBay user powerhigh-us
Well, the tape from johncatrader2 is pretty darned good. The powerhigh-us tape does kinda-sorta reflect but it's pretty pathetic by comparison. Interestingly the powerhigh-us tape was a lot thinner and when I peeled it off, it removed none of my recently applied paint. In fact some sections were barely adhering.
I think you'll agree, there's little if any difference with the powerhigh-us tape removed. Fortunately I have some good tape left so I'll fill in the gaps.

The orange tape also came from eBay. I didn't really know what to do with it so I added it to the back. That, like the bad amber tape was also very thin. That came from eBay user sunnycaishop15.
The sunnycaishop15 reddish tape barely showed up when illuninated by the flash from my phone. When I removed it, most of it just slid off the bus with no problem. It was only where the paint had bubbled that the paint came off too. I just sanded and resprayed.

The 2 inch wide red tape on the back of the bus is phenomenal.
The red tape that is glowing orange in the picture was sold by eBay user johncatrader2. Notice a theme here? This is excellent tape. The dim orange glow of the narrow tape that mostly almost fell off is not very encouraging.

Today I revamped the back of the bus by removing that narrow tape and replaced it with white and red tape from Harbor Freight.
According to the DOT guidance on reflective tape, it is only required on articulated trucks (tractor-trailer). Then, there should be a red/white stripe between 15 and 60 inches from the ground going across the back and down the sides. The top corners on the back require a white reflective inverted L shape. Now, you cannot see it on this image but I have used the white reflective tape that claims to be DOT C2 tape. That is what is printed on it. The glue on that tape is fearsome and it's very hard to remove the backing. That came from eBay user Allstartrucks. 
Looking closely at the picture it's possible to see the inverted L on each side at the top. This is the fake conspicuity tape from allstartrucks. Another view of this very same tape is from when I had it on the front of the vehicle. I've since removed it from the front as I realised I'd see it in my mirrors and it would be a night-time distraction.
With flash, it is barely possible to see that conspicuity tape. It's really not very conspicuous. It is the only tape I have ever seen that is actually labelled DOT C2. That should be quite telling! If the maker has to tell us what it is then it's clearly not what it claims.

So, now I bet you're wondering about the two eBay sellers: powerhigh-us and sunnycaishop15. Well, both appeared to be in the USA but are actually in China. I blew about $10.50 on each of their miserable little enterprises. I wouldn't be too surprised if that didn't result in $21 of bullets fired by terrorists in the Middle East at our peacekeepers. To say I regret being taken for a ride by Chinese scam artists is putting it mildly. I am infuriated and there's nothing that can be done to stop them from taking others for a ride.

The eBay seller allstartrucks is a US operation. Whether they knew the tape was fake, I don't know. I'll give them the benefit of any doubt as I've done business with them successfully in the past. I'll just let that one slide. Meanwhile I have ordered half a dozen foot long white conspicuity strips from another seller. I'll get my two L shapes done and call it a day.

Meanwhile another eBay seller sold me for $15 two red lenses for my back lights. Sadly, when they arrived, they were marked WIW2-71 which is the code for a warning light lens, not a stop/brake light lens. Big difference. The code has to be right or it's the wrong lens and at the worst a ticket from the coppers.

While straight trucks, cars, busses and motorhomes do not legally need conspicuity tape, its use is not forbidden and as the photos show, it does aid in visibility. As an example, a school bus plastered in yellow tape crossed a 4 way junction ahead of me at night. That tape really showed that vehicle up to be a bus and that sold me instantly on its value.

The upshot of buying the wrong tape and the wrong lenses is that the right tape and the right lenses need still to be purchased. The johncatrader2 tape will see me happy as will the Harbor Freight red/white and the new white strips from another ebay seller. I had to buy the new lenses from Unity School Bus parts. They worked out at $15 each plus $10 postage but I did buy lens gaskets while I was at it so it ended up being a bill for around $60. It would have been $15 cheaper had I not already bought those eBay lenses.

You can save a ton just by using eBay. That's why I go there. You can also find things that are fake or over enthusiastically described. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not - it's a real gamble!

Sunday, June 6, 2021



It is no surprise that I didn't do much this weekend. It just seemed that everything was going wrong - no matter what I touched or looked at, it didn't work, went crooked, wasted materials etc.
Take this miserable little kitchen step stool. I went up it to do a little spray painting with a can of spray paint and there was a crunch as I stepped on it. Fortunately I heard it as most of my weight was on my other foot so I was barely phased by it all. My opinion of these plastic things is pretty poor. There's a stepladder here that I borrow and the top is plastic so I'm expecting that to disintegrate on me one day too - especially since it seems to be left outside all the time.

Anyway, I did get to finish the paintwork on the bus so that's now done. That's today's little victory!

Yesterday I went along both sides of the bus putting vertical conspicuous tape from the bottom of the skirt to the bottom of the windows. That went on fairly readily though the tape being cheap, I wonder how much will just fall off. One piece, 12 hours later is already peeling. The red tape I used on the back was sourced via eBay from the USA. The orange, I can't recall. The yellow all came from China. Truth be told, it's likely all made in China and just rebadged. The only difference is the Chinese stuff is thinner.
I didn't see any point in inviting failures by putting the tape on curved surfaces so I just skipped the rub rails. The next thing will be to put horizontal tape using the good tape that's on its way from Texas right now.
The front got some white tape. Next week, assuming my luck has improved, I will put more white tape above and below the windscreen. 

The tires will have to be changed soon. They're 11 years old. I decided it's best to pay somebody to come out and change them since they have dropped 20-30psi in just 2 years (since I last drove the bus). I'm pretty sure I don't want to be driving when a steer tyre decides to blow. While I know the theory behind changing the tyres myself, at 60lbs for just the tire and 68lbs for the wheel itself, I think I'll let some brawny guy handle that. I was recommended one company and emailed them. Their response was upon consideration, quite reasonable so I don't feel any need to shop around for a lower price.

One of the other things I did was to mark where to drill to mount one of my two window covers. I didn't drill because this weekend, everything I've measured has come out wrong. As an example, mounting an under cabinet stereo did not go at all well. It took two days just to have it dangling from two screws. I gave up on trying to get the other two in. The paper template provided was clearly wrong as the last two holes did not line up. In fact they were way out. So, it'll be next week when I try anything else. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

finished the painting (almost)

Today I had a lot of plans but achieved not very many of them. I had intended to switch out the roof vent but realised that as the paint was relatively fresh, it wouldn't stand up to much wear. Rustoleum takes a month to achieve full hardness. Thus I finished the painting on the front with one bit missed - the bit behind the right front wheel and I still haven't done the surround to the emergency exit window. 
Meanwhile I did find my reflective tape. I had some not quite amber tape that was sold as red. That's the thinner tape. I also had 25 feet of two inch red tape. I spent quite a while sticking that into place. The thinner tape was unsticking itself at one point so I'm assuming that if it stays on a week, it'll stay on for life. The older 50mm amber tape I had applied, I just couldn't peel off so I stuck red tape over it. I guess I'll have to go over it and press the tape every few days. The heat should bake it into place. At least that's what seemed to happen with the amber tape.

I do have white and amber tape left but I just ran out of time to put more tape in place. I wanted to do all my marker lights today but ended up doing just the corner markers. 

Looking at the red markers, the old ones had become rather abraded and opaque so it was definitely time to replace them. Now they look quite smart.
It was exactly the same story with the amber markers. Once the lenses were replaced the markers looked smarter. One corner marker seemed to have a dead bulb so I'll have to see about replacing that bulb. I might have a spare bulb in my pile of supplies.

I did replace two of the amber turn signal lenses. When I got to the third, I dropped a screw and could not find it - even with my magnet. Fortunately I know it's an 8-32 screw a bit between 3/4" and 1/2" so I'll probably have to trim my 3/4 screws or put a nut on them before I put the screw into the hole. Some of the screws are so rusty that I had to break one of the old lenses in order to get it off and undo the screw.

I simply ran out of time today. Tomorrow I have a crack of dawn start for work. Remaining to do...

  • Complete the application of reflective tape
  • Complete changing the light lenses/units as needed
  • Apply the "Keep back 300 feet" sticker when that arrives. 
  • Complete the couple of extra bits of painting needed.
  • Rework the right wiper mount
  • Complete installation of the second house battery.
  • Some small internal stuff
I had not mentioned the 300 feet sign before. It transpires that one is available on eBay so I bought one. I could do my own with paint and cardboard letter cutouts but this is just easier. Meanwhile I have been investigating signage for the sides. My current hot favorite is "Ft Mildred Prison Lunatic Asylum".


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Busy weekend

Yesterday I went back to the bus roof and spent all day clearing, priming and caulking two roof seams. It was about 100F (38C) and pretty well unbearable but it had to be done. I did have a few breaks that involved hurriedly taping over the seams when unforecast rain fell.

Really and truly I did not do much yesterday. I did find the silicone caulk that I'd put into the seams about 6 years ago was coming off easily and revealing rust. The wire brush in the angle grinder got worn out yesterday. That's the second Harbor Freight cupped wire brush I've worn out.

The silicone caulk which was clear, produced a nasty looking brown and slightly gooey dust that took a long time to sweep off the roof. While I was up there, I noticed the whole roof needed a second coat of white paint. The first had some thin patches. 

Speaking of silicone caulk. I found a tube of caulk that I'd tried to use a few weeks ago and been unable to make work. Out of curiosity I put it on the ground and ran over it with the pickup truck. The case split and it was possible to extract the silicone as a big block. I'm not entirely sure what use this is but it might work as ballistics gel.

Today I got to the roof and painted the entire roof using a roller. I did not climb on the roof today as I'd had quite enough of that yesterday. I did, however climb onto the hood to redo the paintwork around the windshield. At one point I managed to slip and was heading toward the ground. I grabbed the mirror bracket and it supported me without bending. That's a plus. I used it to swing onto the stepladder from where it was a little easier to descend but facing the wrong way with the wrong foot on the wrong side of the stepladder, it was still a bit challenging.

The end result of the day is the paintwork done today needs a second coat. I still have to do the roof vent, the lights and the reflective tape. With luck, I might manage to get it all done by the end of tomorrow, tomorrow being Memorial Day and hence a day off.

At this point, perhaps I should mention my ancestors. My great uncles were in the Territorial Army. The American edition of that would be the National Guard. They went off for their two weeks annual camp in 1914 and came back 5 years later as war broke out while they were at camp. They fought in France and survived. One came back twisted to one side from loading the shells into the guns shelling Paris.

My late aunty was an anti-aircraft gunner during the second world war and was responsible for downing Nazi planes that were trying to bomb the nearby docks or rail depot. My father was in the British army Germany in the 1950s, chasing terrorists.

Things left to do on the bus...

  • The roof vent
  • Finish the painting (not much left)
  • Change lights where needed.
  • Clean the glass of paint dribbles
  • Fix the tilt on the right windscreen wiper.
  • New tyres all around.
  • Reflective tape all around.
  • Put the new flame shield over the second battery and install the second battery.
  • A little interior wiring
  • Remove the back door buzzer.
  • Cladding over the unused windows and the windows I've already put aluminium plate over on the inside. 
I might put some text on the back of the bus again saying something along the lines of "Keep back 300 feet". I'm also toying with the idea of something on the sides to the effect "Lincoln Asylum for the Criminally Insane".

Sunday, May 23, 2021

A hundred and one degrees farenheit and I was on the roof!

Yesterday I had to take a break from work on the bus because I had to take my car in to the dealer for a repair. One of the cam shaft sensors had gone out. That meant that it was prone to stalling while I was driving - decidedly inconvenient and potentially dangerous.

While I was waiting for my car to be repaired I chanced upon an interior-exterior thermometer in Tractor Supply. Today I remembered I'd bought it and put it to use. High temperatures had been forecast and here they are - a hundred and one degrees Fahrenheit or 38 centigrade. Now you can see why I painted the roof white the other day!
Yesterday I'd been along the sides of the bus, removing old silicone caulk from two seams. I had wanted to do all four of the seams that I knew needed work but yesterday I was tired from spending hours at the dealership so all I did were both ends of two seams.
Today though, in 101F I climbed on the roof. It needs another coat of white paint as some of the grey is showing through. That's no problem though. But I went along one seam and removed the loose caulk, most of which was sitting on rust and so pulled up very easily. It might have been faster if I'd pulled the caulk off both seams and wire brushed both seams them brushed the copious dust off, sprayed rust reforming primer (love that stuff) on both and done the whole thing near twice as fast.

Being very hot it was probably best that I cleaned one seam, sprayed with rust reformer then went inside for half an hour before coming out to put Dynatron caulk in place then going inside for half an hour then spraying grey primer on the now paintable caulk. I went through that process twice - once for each seam before sweeping all the dust off the roof and spraying white paint over the grey primer. 

Having done all that I went around the edges again, sweeping them clear then spraying the ends of the seams that I had done yesterday. 

Next weekend is a three day weekend so I'll try to get both of the other seams completed. There are two further seams after that - one is already treated from a week or two back. The other doesn't leak. So the plan is to hit the two that leak then the next day to replace the roof vent. Whether that will need a collar or not, I do not know. I hope the rivet holes will line up nicely. Having done and caulked that it will be time to wipe the whole roof down with mineral spirits and put a final coat of white paint.

If there's any time left after that lot then the front and rear marker lights will be worked on - maybe the top side markers too. Following that, the other lights will need attention and then the high-visibility marker tape will be applied. Again, the area where the tape will go will have to be wiped down with mineral spirits to make sure it's really clean. 

The next stage after that will be fixing the rest of the brake lines. The tires are down to 75-85psi so they all need air. They all need replacement too since they're 11 years old. Then there's the wiper mount that needs to be redone and the horn needs a proper diagnosis. Other than that there are the window covers. I have two already and I need to order more. Those should cut down greatly on heat.

Plenty distance to go.