Thursday, July 21, 2022

Letter to Karen

 Dear Karen,

Your idea of building a fantastic bus conversion with a built-in washing machine, clothes dryer, shower with 100 gallon water tanks, fridge, freezer, electric cook top, microwave and oven to live in permanently is utterly devoid of any sense of reality.

Let's take this apart one little bit at a time:

  • Washing machine. This will use a horrible amount of water. At least 19 gallons per load. That means you will need to be plumbed in to a water supply. Sure - you can carry 100 gallons but that means also you'll need 100 gallon tanks for waste water.
  • Clothes dryer, fridge, freezer, electric cook top, microwave, oven. Just how are you going to power them? If you went full solar you're talking about $3,000 of solar panels plus probably $2,000 of batteries or even more if they're lithium. That's $5,000 that could be put to other uses.
  • Shower - unless you're into 3 gallon or less showering, the average shower uses 50 gallons a day. That's half of your 100 gallons. Two days and you're out. That's not very much is it?
Where are you going to park your bus conversion, Karen? I hear you say "boondocking". Where would that be? Are there any signs up anywhere saying "boondock here"? You do know that every scrap of land belongs to somebody? Then there are local bylaws and HOA rules where RVs are not allowed even on your own property. That means paying rent to park it, Karen. Not very boondocking is it? 

Oh, Karen, I forgot, yes - you can probably park it behind an abandoned filling station on Route 66 - until somebody sees you. Then it's (take your pick):
  • A robbery and possibly a murder with or without rape from passing lowlifes.
  • An unpleasant encounter with meth-heads or worse that live in the abandoned filling station.
  • A policeman turns up in the middle of the night and tickets you - in your nightie - for illegal camping.
  • The property owner turns up with a bulldozer and bulldozes your abandoned vehicle off his property or has it hauled to the junkyard by a wrecker.
So, Karen, where do you plan to park your bus conversion? Will you be squatting on government land? Yes - squatting - that's what "boondockers" are. Boondockers are squatters and while squatter's rights are a thing on paper they don't mean anything in the real world. Let me tell you, Karen, how it is in the real world....

In the real world people have guns and are very happy to use them. No court will ever convict a landowner who shot a trespasser when the explanation is that the trespasser threatened to kill them. There are no living witnesses. So, Karen, how do you plan to squat?

The next thing, Karen, are you going to spout on about getting full insurance for your dodgy conversion? Yes - you hired "professionals" many of whom will be unlicensed contractors but I hate to break it to you - no insurance company will ever insure your conversion as an RV despite what you read online. There are two reasons for this. First - the "RV" is still a schoolbus no matter how much you try to disguise the fact and hence not a purpose built RV. Second - the construction and planning was all done with no oversight by any professional body.

As for value. How much is your conversion worth? Is it worth the $5,000 you paid for the bus? Is it worth the $100,000 you spent to "convert" it? Is it worth more? Well, it's actually a $5,000 bus that you spent $105,000 on. That's all it'll ever be worth. No matter how much you spend on a $5,000 bus it'll only ever be a $5,000 bus.

So, Karen, time to get off your high horse and time to stop believing the garbage you see written on Facebook. You do know that the people that post the most and spend the most time on Facebook are the people that don't have jobs, real lives, money or the bus conversions they claim to own? Yes, Karen, that does include you!

Grow up, Karen!

The bus owner.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Why the long gap in posts?

 On May 3rd I had a work accident that has had me laid up ever since. Nothing permanent, thank goodness, but it does mean that I am off work for the moment and have been for a while. Without going into further details nothing more is likely to be done on the bus for a while.

Meanwhile I have been working on other projects including some computer programming and electronics as those are light things that won't involve carrying anything heavier than my small laptop.

I had been planning a summer trip. There's really not much remaining to be done on the bus. The essential is the back brake line. There's reworking the right wiper mount but that's it. The tyres are new but have not been used since installed in December. I've not driven an inch. I last bled the brakes in April so I should be able to move the bus a bit. Now that I've healed some, I can probably do that.

I bought the bits to add second solar inputs beside the two existing solar inputs on the side of the bus but in the meantime have redeployed the 15w panel elsewhere. I have the two 20W panels as one unit and three 10W panels as one unit. I have a further two 10w panels as one unit. The two 30w panels are not one unit. If they were all put on at the same time then I could probably do it using just one splitter. The ideal would be to add the second solar inputs.

So, I have two tasks that should be done. I have several tasks that it would be nice to do. Other than that the bus does appear to be completed for the moment. The seam sealing seems to have worked although I have not driven the bus since so I don't know what will shift when I'm driving. The white outside is now getting pretty grey so it does need a wash. The white paint has come off in a few small areas but the plan is to sand and spray where it does come off.

The plan for bars over the windows still exists.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

My suspicions were correct.

A while ago I bought a couple of packs of red and amber LED side markers. I was going to use them but had second thoughts based upon the lousy reliability of LED anything. Thus far my experience of LED lighting has been utterly dismal. To recap my experiences...

Out of a dozen or so LED household bulbs from many different suppliers and manufacturers one one is still in service. Just one. That's utterly terrible reliability from bulbs whose manufactuers slap such unbelievable and farcical claims as "lasts 15,000 hours" on the packets. 

Inside the bus I had LED lighting running 12v LEDs. Those would last maybe 10 - 12 hours before they burned out and blew the fuse as they went out. That got exensive fast. Not only was I having to replace a bulb but also a fuse. The bulbs weren't cheap either. In the end I fixed that by replacing all my lighting units with units that were rated for halogen bulbs and installed halogen bulbs. Problem solved. Subsequently I tried some LED bulbs with a BA12 mount (same as the turn signal and brake light bulbs) and found they made the light units as hot as the halogen bulbs. No saving there! Needless to say I can get halogen bulbs cheaply and easily. The LED things are just horribly expensive. 
Being of suspicious mind, after deciding against using the LED sidelights and deciding to go back with identical incandescent sidelights I thought I'd test these "wonderful" LED "miracles". One was wired in the back yard to a solar panel so that it had power for 12 hours a day. 

The LED remained lit for 60 days but was not illuminated at night as the sun, curiously, doesn't shine at night. Thus it was lit for approximately 720 hours. That is a far cry from the thousands of hours it's supposed to remain lit! In driving terms, as I drive with the lights on for safety, that's 720 hours of driving or at an average of 40mph that's just 28,800 miles. Not very long and not very worthwhile, particularly on commercial vehicles. A school bus I drove one year covered 240 miles a day. That's less than a school year. 
Looking at the side of the LED it's possible to see a small circular heat mark beside the resistor. No wonder the thing went out. As the LED was now pure junk I dismantled it for investigation.
One of the LEDs turned out to be totally dead. The other surprised me. Putting current through it directly it turned red. Putting current through the resistor it turned amber. The other LED did not work at all. I would have put photographs of the changing colors but the LED fried itself before I had the opportunity to take a photograph.

The board is marked 7986 and LM10884. A google search came up with an out-of-stock product (imagine that!). 

The only place I am using these lights is as a stairwell light. There, it will be on for a few minutes at a time so 720 hours should last a good few years. On the stairwell I have one and it's red. It gives enough illumination to see the stairs on the blackest night but doesn't produce enough light to be really visible and won't destroy night vision. 

Having investigated that light, it's now in the household rubbish, waiting to go to the dump. The other LED lights left over are just stored in a box, awaiting a good idea. They will not, of course, be used on anything as mission critical as vehicle lighting. Incandescent bulbs just last longer. As an example of that, on my car which I have had for the past 16 years, I have had to replace two headlamp bulbs and three number plate lights. The third brake light desperately needs replacing but it's one of those ridiculous LED things and they quit making them. There is apparently a halogen replacement but I have yet to find that myth as a reality.

So, the takeaway from this is that I was dead right to be skeptical. It will be a dark day in Hell if they quit making incandescent bulbs.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Yay brakelines.

The day was forecast to be 60% rain so I didn't expect to do much of anything on the bus. I have several other projects on the go including some computer programming, putting some electronics together etc. As it looked decent I did do some work outside. Nothing under the bus however.

This miserable brake line "forming" tool came from Harbor Freight. Thus should be given a great big miss as it doesn't form brake lines. First the 1/4 inch gripper is way too small. Second all it can do is fold brake lines, not bend them.

That was my attempt at a 90 degree bend using the Harbor Freight brake line forming tool. It is a 90 degree bend but the tube is narrowed to the point of it ceasing to have any viable function. I'll go back to the old tube bender that I've used before. That, surprisingly enough, was cheaper and also from Harbor Freight but cruically - it works.
The old brake lines were supposed to be fastened by the bolt on the left. Well, that didn't work so after a lot of issues I did get them fastened separately. The line on the right needed a spacer which was provided by a 1/4" rivnut and fastened by a 1.5" self-drilling metal screw. It took a long time to do this simple thing as I was trying other ideas using materials lying idle. 

That was a frustrating couple of hours as I'd do half of what I'd planned, put a piece of the thing I was working on down and turn round to find it had vanished. Then I'd have to start again and the same thing would happen again and again and again. In the end though, this far simpler approach seems to have prevailed.
I had another go with my solar water heater. I suspect the collector needs to be bigger but as the plexiglass/perspex had come unglued I sprayed the inside black using the last of a can of black spray paint. Then I screwed the plastic back over it. That should work better to trap heat.  Tomorrow I might have another go at setting it going but I'll keep my tubing short this time around. Tomorrow also I need to get under the bus and work on those brake lines. I only have a 4 day work window this time and one day has already been blown.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Yay and whoops.

Today I took the scrap steel that I'd used to test my wire welder and cut it to make two legs to which I could fasten a cross bar to hold the D cell batteries in place.
The steel was cut with the angle-grinder and then drilled. I tapped two holes to 8-32. That needed an 11/6 drill bit and I know I had one. I just couldn't find it so I used the nearest and tapped them. The tapping worked and the cross bar held in place nicely.

While I was hunting for my drill bits I took a step forward and put all my spanners (wrenches) into a big plastic ammunition box then I took the screwdrivers out of my drill bits box and put them in the now empty box. Now I have separate boxes for drill bits/taps and screwdrivers. Given the bulky nature of screwdrivers, if I buy more, they might end up in a bigger box too.

Having cut the steel, drilled, tapped and spray painted it, I put it in place. 

It will definitely hold the batteries in place. I'll need a crosspoint screwdriver to remove the batteries but that's fine. They're the batteries for the door lock and I do not anticipate changing them more than once a year. That part of the system is now very tidy and completed. The cross bar is a piece of brass that I bought for a purpose that I cannot recall and which never got used. I'll just regard that as a successful project that cost no extra money.

I looked at the timer relay and other relay that I had to work out how to wire so that the light would go off after a minute or so and really didn't feel like working it all out. What I had in place - an on-off pushbutton switch works. The relay thing would be a great idea but I just didn't feel like working on it. While I have the relays and spent money on them, I probably will just keep them to one side and proceed on with just the switch. There's a lot to be said for KISS (keep it stupid simple). 

After that I found out again why I rarely work on two projects in a day. I found some wood to cut to make a baffle around the back of the switch. The plan was to glue it around the switch and screw a metal plate over it so the back of the switch is protected from things banging around as they're thrown in the closet. 

My 45 degree cut wasn't quite 45 degrees. That was the first clue that it was time to finish for the day. Still, it could have been used. I sprayed the wood white and the spray just didn't dry like it did on the metal - possibly because the temperature had dropped some. 

While the paint was almost dry, I went inside and put cable wrap over the wire from the battery and light to the switch. Then I clamped a slightly sticky painted block to the bench outside to cut a cable groove, after of course knocking the pair of blocks off the spray cans they were sitting on to cure straight down the stairs onto the ground.

So I cut the cable groove. And cut it in the wrong place. That means the cutting, painting etc was all in vain. I'll start afresh with a new piece of wood next weekend.  
The groove looks great but should have been in the other piece of wood. 

Once I have the little protector installed around the back of the swtch and the wire conduit fastened into place I'll be able to call and end on operations inside the closet. I should be working on brake lines next weekend anyway. I want to get the length from the engine to the differential done and the bit around the differential done too. I still have a couple of things to work on under the hood that I'm not 100% happy with yet.


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Success with the wire welder

A long time ago, not quite before the dawn of man, I bought a Harbor Freight 125A flux-core welder. I never had any luck with it but today I pulled it out to have another go. The results were way better than I had anticipated.

Though I have burned through the thin sheet metal (taken from an old fridge) a few times, the beads have gone on. I really needed to put a faster wire speed. The power is set to low and though I have not made good beads, I have achieved something. As I said, the wire speed needed to be faster. The steel measures at 1mm thick so, quite thin.
Here I've welded some 2mm thick steel bracket to a 3mm thick steel bar. The bracket was found lying in the road after having been run over along with a few others. The brackets looked interesting so I'd picked them up. The 3mm steel was part of an old project on the bus that has been eliminated.

Again the wire speed is too slow but the welds have taken well. I beat that with a hammer and could not make the two come apart. On the whole, this experiment has been extremely successful. I had put the wire welder away because I just couldn't weld with it, sticking to my stick welder. I'd bought it so I could weld thin sheet metal but ended up being unable to and riveted the metal instead. Now I have another tool in my welding armory.
Today also I found my hot glue gun and hot glued the cable loom to the ceiling of the bus so the wire to the light is well supported and out of the way.
Inside the closet the wire has been tidied up with cable loom glued into place with the hot glue gun. Those things are useful! While doing all this, I realised the steel bar I welded can also be used to keep the batteries in place. Tomorrow I might get on and build a battery claping device as well as looking into putting the timer together for the light switch. There is progress, albeit slow.

Next weekend is a 4 day weekend for me and will be 60F or therabouts. Not exactly warm but the best I will get before Easter. I will head underneath to do the brake lines next weekend.


Saturday, February 5, 2022

New door lock controller and entryway light installed


Today two things happened. First the entryway light was installed. That wasn't screwed in but rather was attached with some "super strong" double-sided tape. This was the tape that I was considering using to attach a flexible solar panel to the roof. It didn't seem all that sticky but time will tell. I can always hot glue as was the original plan. The hot glue gun was in hiding though and might take a hunt to locate.

The second was that the door lock controller was replaced. It had been a cleverly wired relay in combination with the switch but it had not really been installed with permanance in mind. This time it's different. It's also a far neater installation.
I still have some cable-wrap to add but that can be done tomorrow. This setup is a lot tidier. I'm also not using crimp connectors as much since I managed to pull some straight off the wire without much difficulty. 

Originally the plan had been to run the doorway light and the door lock off the D cells but since there was power left in the AA cells, there didn't seem to be much point in taking the AAs down. What happens with used batteries is they get put in a drawer for later use then ignored in favour of fresh batteries. Everybody does that so slightly used batteries end up getting left to lose their charge, leak and get tossed out.

A plan was formulated to install a couple of relays - one being a timer relay - to control the light so it could be turned on with a single button push then turned off. That hasn't come to fruition yet. There's time though. The plan was to install it after completing the door controller anyway.
This was the old door lock controller. It looks worse than it is. Wiring always looks a horrible jumble of spaghetti. Occasionally the odd lunatic will say "oh that looks like a fire hazard" because they know nothing about wiring. It worked very well for the last 5 years or so. Tidying it was only a thing when I also wanted to install the doorway light.

As far as the actual light is concerned, it was screwed to a leftover block of vinyl plank (remember I used those on the bathroom floor). The piece of vinyl plank measuring about four inches by one by one was taped to the bus ceiling. The light is still a leftover red LED sidelight. The switch is still an on-off pushbutton. 

You might think that this didn't take very long but when you're trying to work around a lot of wire connections and each one has to be right in order for it all to work, it does take time. Time and plenty testing. I follow a philosophy of do one thing then test it before going on to the next. This takes a lot longer but elminates the frustration of having to take it all apart to start again. Getting it right first time, every time, saves time.

The task tomorrow will be to work with the other relays and try to make the light turn off automatically after a minute. Once that's achived I can switch the pushbutton switch out for a different pushbutton switch. I also have to finish cable-wrapping and fully attaching the switch plate for the pushbutton switch. I have to say what I've done today looks a heck of a lot neater. One thing I might need to do is to add a securing bar over the D cells. I thought I might over the AA cells but it turned out to be unnecessary. Only time will tell there.