Sunday, May 26, 2019

Real, running water on demand!

It may not look much but this is actual running water. After running the cable under the bus yesterday to the bathroom, it's now up, under the sink and at the pump. I sat there on the toilet with my knee pressed against the pump button for quite a few seconds, in awe of what I've just created. It wasn't fun installing the cables under the sink as I had to drill holes and put screws in, blind. It was a time that I wished I was as small as a Barbie doll.
Heaven knows why my phone decided not to focus on this one but the bottom left fuse is a 1A ATO/ATC fuse and that powers my handbasin water pump. That fuse place had been empty forever! The fuse 2nd down on the left powers my bathroom fan - whenever my bathroom fan arrives from China.

Things I'm currently waiting for:
a 10A self-resetting breaker (delivery date June 11 - July 23). That could be a while and I might end up getting one in a car parts store locally if they have any.
A pack of 5 power connectors. (delivery date May 24 - June 3). It's not forever but as I can't find anything locally, it'll have to do.

I started work on putting some brackets onto my purple box. That just wasn't destined to happen today! I drilled two holes but they were to small and needed to be enlarged. Whoops - one hole got a little too big but I did find a washer to put on the inside for the rivet. Did I say I was riveting? Clearly I didn't inform the riveter that it was expected to work.
The first rivet broke off short before even completing its mission, leaving me with a mess to deal with. That, I'll resolve with my angle grinder. I'll just cut the core and grind the head down then redo the rivet.
Meanwhile I tried to rivet the other side. This hole was the right size for the rivet but again the riveter had trouble. It has managed to bend the shaft of the rivet and refused to grasp it in order to finish tightening the rivet and to break the shaft off.

I've had trouble with riveters and angle grinders but not this problem with a riveter. Bearing in mind I'm using aluminium rivets with steel cores, this is quite pathetic! I had to rebuild one riveter after it jammed on me. That was quite interesting as I'd never dismantled one before. This one is simpler and I'm wondering whether a squirt of oil might help it work better.

Having had three near disasters I decided to call it a day. I'm taking the hint that today the universe is telling me not to work on construction for the day. Generally I find once I go beyond 3 problems everything turns into a nightmare. It certainly doesn't help that it's 100F today (38C).

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Smaller advances than desired

The running water demonstration of a few weeks ago used a battery pack under the sink. Right now my mission is to power the shower pump directly from my house batteries. Saturday being my day of doing little, I've not achieved as much as I would have liked. In my defence, it has been rather warm. The temperature inside the bus with the ventillation fans off rose to 41C or around 104F. Outside the temperature according to the online weather service was 98F though they said on the radio that it was actually 1 degree cooler than the maximum recorded of 101F.
The first thing I did was to complete installing the turn signal switch. That, I'd started the day it had arrived, which was a few days ago. I couldn't complete it then because I had to lie on the floor and that day I was wearing my work clothes.

This last few days my schedule has been way less hectic. Normally I'm out of the house at 5AM after a 4AM alarm. Then I drive a school bus from 5:30AM (or sometimes a shade earlier) until 8:15AM. Then I am out again on the first middle-day run which starts at 10:20AM and ends at 12:00PM then I'm out again on my second middle-day run which starts at 12:00PM and ends at 1:15PM. Then it's a hasty lunch before I'm out again from 1:45PM til 5PM. Every other day I have to drive after the morning run to another depot in order to get fuel. The fuel truck only comes every 3 days so I have to refuel in between since the fuel tank holds but 60 gallons and my daily run is 200+ miles.

Anyway, since term is now coming to an end, the elementary children don't ride. That reduces my midday runs to one and reduces the load significantly on my other journeys. That led to one very light day when I came home and managed to get some work done on the bus. It was for another reason though that I came home that day.

My car refused to start in the morning so I borrowed a pickup truck. I came home after the morning run to return the pickup and to fix my car. Well, the car fix was easy enough - the battery clip was loose on one terminal - clearly it had worked loose since Walmart had installed the battery in December 2015. Then I had to fix the pickup because it didn't want to start! With a few minutes remaining I started installing the turn signal switch.

Switching turn signal switches was pretty easy. I just had two screws to undo. The old switch had no rubber boot around the paddle. The new one does but it moves readily, and that allowed me to access the screws to fasten it in place readily enough. Then it was the connectors. They had a locking flap that could easily be lifted and the old connectors pulled out of the bus connectors and the new connectors pushed in. It was all unidirectional. Very easy and straightforward save for having to lie on the floor in the heat to do it. I dare say a mechanic would have charged a hundred dollars to do what took me probably an hour (because I had to work out how it all worked). Testing came next and it tested perfectly.

The horn button when pressed made a satisfying sound from a relay somewhere. The hillbilly horn that had been wired without a fuse, blew the new fuse I'd installed. I'm not sure what's happening there. I have it in mind to find out what is wrong with the original horn circuit that the hillbillies tapped into. My betting is that it was the old turn signal setup because some of those connections were quite loose.
I went under the bus to complete running the cable for the handbasin pump. That went well enough though I did break a drill bit making the hole in the floor for the cable to enter underneath the hand basin. By the time I finished for the day I hadn't quite connected everything but what needs to be done can be done inside the bus.

The photograph of the waste barrel is because one of my regular readers wanted to know how I'd secured my waste barrels. What can be seen here is chains that will hold 560lbs per length, chain couplers that will hold 400lbs and turnbuckles that will hold 130lbs. The barrel is 15 gallon and will weigh 128lbs when chock full. As can be seen, the barrel can never be fully emptied nor probably fully filled. I'll regard it as a 12 gallon barrel to be on the safe side. The bolts holding the chain terminals are 5/16th inch and capable of suspending 1,200lbs. I'm pretty confident that my barrels are secure!

The downpipe in the background is from the sink to the barrel. The pipe in the foreground is a water inlet and at the bottom is a pressure reducer. Though my plumbing should be fine for standard pressures I wanted to be very sure and use low pressure.

During the week I thought about my solar-powered extraction fan idea. I'll keep on with that but what I will also do is to install wiring to the battery compartment so that if needed I can put a 3rd battery or a bigger battery in the battery compartment. I bought the cabling the other day but as I need another 10A breaker and a battery connector, I have to wait as I had to order both. I have a feeling that might be a more profitable route.

I still have yet to install the cables into the battery compartment for the solar charger in order to keep the driving batteries topped up. I might change out the charge controller that's located at the front of the bus in order to do that. I just have little faith in the cheapest of the PWM controllers. All solar controllers are made in China. I did briefly consider MPPT controllers but couldn't see any real advantage over PWM other than something largely theoretical.

The roof vent still awaits installing. I still have to put my fuse box in the control console and connect all my switches to that. That'll be a job for another day. The new USB power supply works but isn't currently switched. I have a switch. Again, I have to get inside the console to work on that. There are a lot of little jobs remaining to be done though running the battery cables will be the biggest task. I looked at the flat mirrors on the sides and see that in order to get them pointing straight back it's just a case of adjusting the top connector a bit. Right now they point down a little.

The temperature inside was warmer than it was last year. The insulating properties of the elastometric paint I put on the roof last year must have faded a little. It was definitely hot inside. Maybe not as hot as before though. With adequate ventilation I would imagine that the inside will be the same as outside if not cooler. I'm not going to install AC though.

I'm still chasing real RV style insurance. At the moment that's not looking too promising. I keep coming across insurers who won't insure because it's not converted by a big-name company. That tells me that all the people that buy RV conversions from non big-name companies are going to run into the same issues. Mind, to be honest I've seen so many horrendous home-made and redneck chop shop bus conversions that I see why the insurers are like this.
This is an RV conversion I saw not long ago. It looks as though it's way over the legal height limit. It looks terribly unstable and I would be scared to turn corners in it.  It just looks totally unsafe.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Small advances with direct solar power of the extraction fans

Today I worked more on the project I was working on yesterday, namely the solar powering of my ventilation fans. The short end of the story for those with minimal attention spans is everything worked as predicted. The stages of getting there and testing took quite a while though.
When I'm working on electrics I tend to use a voltmeter. I've tried several different voltmeters but this one from Walmart seems to be working and seems to keep on working. I had one from Lowes or Home Depot about 12 years ago and that just seemed to die - the needle wouldn't move on the scale. It stuck half way! I've tried one or two digital multi-meters and they seem to be the worst - they either break very quickly, giving erratic readings or the batteries die quickly. Needless to say those that take the most expensive batteries die the fastest. This one has a single AAA battery inside (and a small glass fuse).
When I'm soldering I often find that a small electric soldering iron just won't do what's needed. Thus I tend to turn to a butane torch. It's really good for soldering and for shrink-wrap insulation sleeves. I think this was another Walmart purchase. I did have one from Harbor Freight but it didn't work after having been in storage in my old storage unit. 
So, using the torch and my meter, I put Anderson connectors on the cutoff cords that I'd been using for my solar panels. Now I have two extension cords. I used them today when I was testing my directly solar powered fans. They worked perfectly. Putting Anderson connectors on is problematic. They come as two connectors, connected by two wires. One wire is red, the other white. The problem there is that when they're cut apart to be used, the red wire is positive on one connector and negative on the other. Thus the color of the cables has to be ignored and a meter must be used every time to check for polarity.
I tested the setup with a single solar panel and a single fan. That worked really well. Next I introduced the second panel (using the Y connector I built some months ago) and the second fan. The control unit worked just as well as I'd hoped and turned the fans off when the voltage was too low. It was possible to hear the fans going on and off.

Interestingly as the sun was pretty well overhead, the best position for my panels seemed to be flat on the ground. I'd not thought of laying them flat. I'd always heard they should be at an angle. Mind, all my other panels are vertical. They seem to work pretty darned well.

I had an afterthought as I was adding a fuse to the incoming power line that I should try putting the panels optimally but connected via the front solar input. That would give me a test sample to see whether I do indeed need to install my newly made purple box with the low voltage cutout switch. I didn't have time today but I'll try it next weekend. It might be that placed optimally the solar input from the front, going through the charge controller might be sufficient to power the fans. If not then I can just continue on the way I am. If it turns out I don't need my fancy voltage limited then it will simplify my wiring no end and I shall rejoice. I can just put a simple switch and a small switch box.
Walking in the yard not far from the bus I spotted this cactus growing wild - as they do in my locale. It served to remind me of my late mother who so loved cacti. She passed away in October 2016. She wasn't just a lover of cacti - she was pretty much an expert as she was on wildlife.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

More fiddling on the solar side

I do an awful lot of thinking and testing. I test everything at least 5 times and think it over several days beforehand too.
I never get much done on a Saturday as I'm still recovering from the week. This is the crowning glory of what I did today though. I put my battery saver plus two switches into a used aluminium box I bought on eBay for $6. I'll have to rivet a bracket to each side in order to bolt it to the bus but that's absolutely doable. It's purple because that's all the paint I had.

The two switches are...

  • Top switch is for the solar panel. This works mostly off the rear external plugin solar panel. With the switch to the left the power from the solar panel input on the side of the bus goes into the unit. With the other switch in the up position, solar power feeds through the control unit (shown) and directly into two extraction fans. That allows me to have constant ventilation without bothering with my battery or even touching the rest of my solar setup.
  • The top switch in the off (central) position means the external input is disconnected. Nothing will happen if some moron decides to put 25,000 volts through the solar input. 
  • The top switch turned to the right, power from the external solar panel will be put straight into the onboard house batteries. 
  • The bottom switch in the down position means the fans will run straigh from the timer and the batteries as currently they do.
  • The controller just stops the fans when the battery gets below 12v. My solar charge controller is set for a slightly lower power level. This means the ventilation will cut off before the power to my shower, my handbasin or my lighting.
While I was at it, I made up an extension lead for my solar panels since I cut the cords short. I could do a second extension cord too. That would enable me to position my solar panels much further from the bus if required. 

Tomorrow I want to test the functioning of the control unit in my box in combination with the fans and solar panels. Placing the panels in full sun I should get 60W. That's 5A. We've already established those fans actually use 3.7A between them despite claims that they're 2.5A each. I'm hoping that the charge controller on my panel will be able to stop the fans when the panels get obscured and restart them when the sun is back.

One of the things I bought on eBay was a panel-mount ATO fuse holder. I'd had the idea of including it on my purple box. Since then though I looked at the wiring and found it would be way easier just to insert an ordinary inline ATO fuse holder. 

Today they're holding a work dinner for all the drivers where I work. The idea of heading to work on a day off to meet people I work with is just not very appealing. My work colleague isn't going either. I would love to be a fly on that wall to see just how few drivers actually turned up. I mean, honestly - I see enough of my workmates at work. They're fine people but two things area against it - keeping it professional (IE No social functions) and I just don't do crowds - not after Ligo (but that's another story).

I haven't actually completed a bus project for a while. I have several nearing completion though. I'll have to see which gets completed first. I have a feeling that if I plug on with what I did today, tomorrow then that will be completed first.

The CPU fan I ordered has a heck of a long delivery period. I might just use the battery-powered desktop fan I bought together with the voltage reducer I bought on eBay. That would work quite well though it makes more noise. Whether it shifts more air is debatable. I have very much the feeling that the CPU fan is another one of those orders that will not arrive. Speaking of which, I ordered a surveillance camera which never arrived and where the seller is now listed as not a registered account. I filed a dispute so it'll probably be another week before I get a refund.

I paid for a new turn signal switch for my bus. That's not yet arrived. Thank the Lord I was not in a rush! I know I've been charged but when it will arrive is anybody's guess. I don't want to bug the fellow because I'm sure he's legit and it's all above board.

One of the things I looked for this week was epoxy putty. I didn't find any, sadly. I'll have to look again. I have an idea that since I replaced the cigarette lighter inlet outside, I'll do the same inside. As there are no inlets for Anderson connectors, I might get a couple of Anderson connectors and set them in a big chunk of epoxy putty so they can be used as if they were inlets. 

I tested my rear solar inlet today and it worked just fine. I put my brand new extension cord made up of some leftover dual cable and the two ends of an Anderson 1 foot long extender into the inlet I installed. Then I connected a solar panel to the other end, placing it in direct sunshine. Then I tested where the power came out of my rectifier and it was fine. I even checked it with my new power control box and read 18.7 volts coming in from the panel.

Remaining to do on the current plan...
  • Test the twin solar panels on the new control box before installing the control box. 
  • Complete the wiring to the bathroom sink.
  • Complete installation of my shower fan.
  • Install the new roof vent.
  • Install the new fuse box inside the control console in order to tidy things inside. Then add a switch for my front USB panel.
If the solar panels and the control box don't work out then my last resort will be to install a 3rd battery. That will go in the battery compartment in a box made up to contain also the free-floating power switch. 

I have to install the turn signal switch when it arrives. Other than that I'm considering the bus once again complete when all the above have been taken care of. I can't realistically think of any further additions other than perhaps a GPS tracker in case somebody steals the bus.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

More issues and more solutions

Those with longer memories than the standard short-term memory human will recall I purchased from Walmart an angle adapter for a screwdriver that also worked well for drills. Needless to say after having done the couple of holes that needed doing, it stopped working. Today I tried forcing it and yes it would still go all the way around but was very stiff at certain points.
Being clearly no further use for what I wanted to do, I carefully cut the casing off using my angle grinder. I found exactly what I expected inside, namely two crown wheels and the problem was exactly what I thought it would be. Look carefully at the crown wheel inside the casing on the left and at the crown wheel in the middle of the picture. There are teeth missing from the crown wheels. That will cause the stiffness and jamming I experienced. The only thing that will cause that is imperfections in the steel. Given that all steel is recycled, I would hazard a guess that some contaminant was in the steel that caused those two crownwheels to be a little too brittle. Hence teeth sheared off, jamming the mechanism.
I put the voltage controller into a box that I purchased secondhand via eBay. Cutting the hole was easy enough using the angle grinder. I did get it crooked. Oh well - it's not the only crookedly built thing in the bus. I'd sprayed it purple since I had no white spray paint. Well, actually I do but it won't come out of the can. There's a blockage inside the valve stem of the can which is really annoying as it's an unused spray can.

With the adjustments I had to make to make room for the clip attachments on the sides of the unit, I accidentally scraped the paint on the ends of the box. Needless to say I'd run out of purple spray paint by then. Not entirely welcome but I will install it as is when I get the switches I need.

In order to complete the unit I had to order two switches - both double pole. One is two way and the other is two way with a central off position. The aim is to put the two way switch so that the extraction fans can be run directly from solar power or from battery power via the timer controller I have already installed. The other switch will control the solar panel. It will either supply power directly to the other switch, add power to the general solar power supply side or be in the off position, isolating the external solar input.

When I was under the bus the other day, I put the strap over the battery that's not strapped down but found that my turnbuckles were way too big. I'll have to get some smaller ones. Clearly I'd forgotten that I'd used a smaller size when I built the other battery strap and cage.

It's irksome having to order so much stuff from eBay but it seems just about all the local electrical and electronic suppliers went out of business. That's largely due to the oversales of warranties - people buy the extended warranty then when the warranty expires they sell the item and buy new. They never have to think about fixing it hence the parts are not available. When was the last time you saw a TV repair shop?

As I have a redundant phone, I downloaded a webcam viewing app. I couldnt' get the thing to work though as it needed a login etc and I really didn't have the slightest inclination toward registering on some website or other for something that should just work right off the bat. The aim was to see what I could see on my front webcam. I guess I'm just going to have to shoot video and watch the video on my computer after transferring it from the memory card.

I stuffed the side vent on the bus with plastic bags a few days ago. After the torrential rain of last night there's still water entering and dripping inside. I'm baffled as to where exactly that is coming from since I've sealed everything I can think of. There's probably some moisture coming from the roof vent so I'll have to set to and replace that. That can wait a few weeks though. I am officially off work for the summer on June 5th. That's approaching rapidly. Three weeks and two days is all that's left. I'll be honest - I want to do something different next year. I loved driving schoolbusses for the three years I've done it but it's time to move on to something else. I achieved my goal of learning how to drive my own bus.

Harbor Freight has a battery for my cordless drill for $13. A new drill with a battery is $20. I'm almost minded to see what Walmart has since they're so much closer. Harbor Freight is a good place but the distance means that any saving has to be more than the $5 in gas it would cost to get there and back. For many single items, it's just not worthwhile. And looking at the site, for $19 they have just that - a rechargeable drill with a new battery. My $13 battery would cost me $5 in gas so that would be $18 and that's only a single dollar advantage. It's just not worth it in time alone.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Progresso on el busso, not progresso on el soupo

Today not being a workday, it was time to get some work done on the bus. The forecast was for rain, rain and more rain with the chance of yet more rain. It didn't arrive which proves my point when I say weather forecaster speak with forked tongue.
I fed the cables that I'd attached last week, through the floor (only one of these cable bundles is new) and caulked around the edge of the hole pretty thoroughly. I don't need any critters coming up through my cable holes. I had enough of that with rats in the house coming through the dryer vent hole which is why the dryer vent hole now has an old car number plate screwed down over it. I finally caught the last rat this week, took it outside and dispatched it.
On the side of the bus I installed the second of my Anderson two pin recepticles. This can now receive energy from solar panels placed on the ground. I figured that if I'm parked in the shade then I can put a couple of solar panels on the ground in the sun. That gives me the best of both worlds! As can be seen - the cables are hanging down.
I attached the wires from the Anderson inlet to the cable from inside the bus. That part is now fully functional though there is nothing connected as yet to the cables on the inside bar a half-wave rectifier. The plan is to put a switch on the power from the rectifier and a fuse then to have power from the panels going either to the extraction fans or to the general bus power supply. The aim is to keep the fans running in sunny weather which will keep the inside of the bus cool.

The underbus cabling for the solar input is completed. The other line to the water pump in the bathroom is not yet completed. That was where I ran into a snag. The black Harbor Freight cordless drill has run out of power. I believe that the battery while it still turns the drill fast enough, does not have as much power as it used to. I really need to buy a new battery. I'm not sure how long it has lasted but it has lasted reasonably well. The corded Harbor Freight drill does work but the cord is uncomfortable to lie on and is not all that convenient.
So, at the moment I am on stop with some cabling left to be attached to the underside of the bus. I probably have about ten to fifteen feet of cabling to attach, heading toward the handbasin. I'll have to drill an entry hole but that's no problem.

I would love to have done more today but I get quite exhausted quite quickly. I put this down today to three factors. The first is work really wears me out since I started doing 52 hours a week. The second is the heat - it really is getting warm outside. The third is my Dickies overalls that I wore today as they're poly-cotton. They don't breathe as well as pure cotton so they are a bit too warm to wear in a warm, humid climate.
Part of what I'll be doing with the fans is putting a voltage controller on the fans. If the input voltage is below 12v then the fans will be turned off. It will be the same if powered by bus battery power or by solar power. That way the motors are protected from burn out. The problem is if a low enough voltage is applied, the coils will heat up but the motor won't turn and won't therefore produce enough air cooling for the coils.

Thus I purchased a plain (used) box on eBay. It was clearly some kind of modem box originally. I cut a hole in it for my voltage controller switch as it's supposed to be panel mounted. There are a few holes where LEDs would presumably have been mounted that I can just fill with rivets. There's a switch hole where I will put a switch.

There are quite a few projects underway at the moment. There's the roof vent that'll be done sometime soon. The underbus electrics are still underway for the wire to the water pump. The fan in the shower is on hold until I receive a CPU fan from China. The turn signal switch will be replaced soon too. I ordered one a few days ago. That's going to be $117 plus probably $14 postage. I have no idea when it will arrive. I ordered it from Mike Lamb of Midwest Transit Equipment of Illinois. Very helpful fellow and I can thoroughly recommend him.

Another thing I'll do is complete my plan for putting a solar maintainer on my starting batteries. Just about all the bits are there - I just have to complete some underbody wiring. Yet another idea hit me a few days ago - to put a high power cable from the main junction between the batteries toward the battery compartment.

The bus driving battery compartment is big enough to install three type 31 batteries. Two is all that is required to start the bus. In fact it might even start using a single battery. I've got a switch on the circuit right now that's just lying in a plastic tray. I might build a little box to hold that switch that's about the same length and height as a type 31 battery. Then I could mount the switch properly and not bother with the plastic tray. While I'm at it, if I built that box to hold another U1 sized battery then I could wire that into the circuit and have a total of 105ah. That would mean in turn that I don't need to run the fans off solar all the time. The two 35ah batteries don't produce enough power to run the motors without dropping the voltage. In time I suppose the three could be replaced by a single type 31 deep cycle in the battery compartment.

Meanwhile I'm heading into the last 3 weeks of the school year. After this I will be quite happy not to drive a work school bus again for quite a while. My day starts with a 4AM alarm. Then about 4:30 I roll out of bed then leave the house at 5AM. At 5:20AM I arrive at work and at 5:30AM I'm sailing out of the front gates at the wheel of a 30' special needs schoolbus. At 8:15AM I'm back in the bus yard. At that point I could go home but rather than put 20 miles on my car, drive for 40 minutes total and spend just an hour and three quarters at home, I take a nap in my car. Then at 10:30 I'm off again in the work bus. I'm back by 1:15 which gives me half an hour for lunch so it's whatever can of food is in the car. Then at 1:45 I'm back on the road again, returning at 5pm. By the time I have returned to the bus yard I have completed about 200 miles of route driving. By the end of the week I am utterly exhausted.

Now you can appreciate why during term time very little actually gets done on the bus. In fact I'm lucky most weeks to do anything as I don't really recover until Sunday. As there's a lot of bacteria under the bus and mold, I can only go under there on Saturdays as it takes 24 hours for the bacteria and mold to have its usual effect on my digestive tract. Better to have that on a Sunday than when I'm driving a bus. Perhaps I should bottle the sand on the ground here and sell it as a laxative?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Bits and bobs weekend.

It was another of those weekends - the kind of weekend other weekends deny knowing and about which regular days deny knowledge. It rained a lot. In fact more than a lot. It rained very heavily - the kind of torrential downpour that caused Noah to build his ark. Between rainstorms I went to the bus and found most of the rain had stayed out of the bus. I still saw a few drips but I think those might have come from the side vent. I'll still probably replace the vent with the vent I bought as it doesn't look that great.
A few days ago a little 12v to 3v voltage regulator arrived. I'd ordered that after finding the 12v CPU fan I'd been using was not that great. I'd had an idea that I might use the cheap D cell powered desk fan I have lying around as a replacement for the shower fan. Meanwhile of course, I have another smaller CPU fan on the way. I could probably use either but I'd rather use the CPU fan as it's quieter and likely more reliable.
Originally I'd put a cigarette lighter socket as my 12v power inlet for the bus. That was so I could plug solar panels in while leaving them in an ideal outdoor location in order to get the most sun. The cigarette socket and plug proved quite problematic. The plugs are very flimsy and poorly made while the sockets are pretty good and almost indestructible. They also tend to have a problem with water penetration.

My solar panels had come with MC4 connectors. Those are pretty good but have a huge flaw in that they're very difficult to separate when required. I was also less than keen on the fact the cables were separate and not a figure 8 or dual cable. Given that I know these panels to work and the warranty has probably expired I had no qualms about snipping the cables short and replacing them with dual cables ending in Anderson two pin connectors.
This is one of the panels - it's possible to see that the cables are cut to different lengths. This is so that in the unlikely event that the solder connections fail (even in their shrink wrapped insulation), the two conductors should not be able to touch.
One of the other issues with the existing cables was that they were too short. They were something like two feet long which might be ideal for some situations but which were not for mine. My new cables are both four feet long which is ideal inside the windshield of the bus. If I need them further from the bus than four feet I can use an extender. That is not a problem.
That's what the back of the bus is looking like now. Some of the wires could go into cable wrap. I'll probably do that just to make it look tidier. The rest will just have to stay as they are. It looks complicated and it is complicated as it's a system that has grown organically.

The box mounted to the ceiling to the right of the light switch and lamp assembly is a half-wave bridge rectifier. That takes input from an as yet to be installed solar input on the side of the bus at the back. When the wires are installed, they will go to the new bridge rectifier below.
The black box in the center at the bottom is new. That's a half-wave bridge rectifier. I don't actually need a rectifier there but for the fact it adds excellent anchor points for my connectors. There are three solar sources combining into one via that little box. Before that was installed I had a couple of diodes between contact strips. That had worked excellently for years but now I need more wires so it needed updating.

The plan is to get the solar inputs combined and then to tap into the solar input to give an alternate power supply for the ventilation fans. If you remember, I bought a voltage regulator a while ago and the plan is to use that so that the fans take their power from the combined solar panels when there's enough power.
Just so you know - that's the power regulator. It's set to turn off the power at 11.5v and back on at 12.5v. This is basically so that the fans are not supplied a low voltage - too low to turn the fan but which will heat up the wiring and end up burning the internal fan wiring out. It'll be a fair bit of work but I think it'll be worthwhile.

Currently things remaining to do on the bus...

  • Replace the broken turn signal switch. Thus far I've contacted four places. NAPA who have not responded to the order I put in on their website for instore delivery. It doesn't look like they're going to either so scrub NAPA. Carolina International doesn't seem to bother with their website which really doesn't surprise me. I find many companies throw websites up then ignore them which of course backs up my view of the internet as being a waste of time. W.W.Williams can get me the part but it's going to be $140. One of the online school bus suppliers wanted $117 but weren't quite sure about whether it would fit. It's looking a lot like going local is going to be the answer.
  • Completing the wiring to the battery compartment so that I can solar charge the driving batteries or at least keep them topped up. That's a very short job.
  • Running the wires through the floor and under the bus to the handbasin and through the floor by the handbasin. That's probably going to take the longest as it's a long stretch and I'm going to have to work around the rear differential - which is massive.
  • Running wires to and installing the rear solar input Anderson connector. That's not going to take too long but must be done in combination with the handbasin wire. 
  • Replacing the roof vent. I have a roof vent and just need to get the old vent off and the new vent in place. Complicating matters, the new vent has a flat base and the roof is slightly curved. I'll probably have to use some Bondo before crimping my rivets but after the Bondo has cured.
  • Install my new fuse box inside the control console.
I have a plan to resurrect the non-functioning horn button in the steering wheel. That came about because I noticed that the connections are loose on the yellow wire coming from presumably the horn button. It's not high priority but it would be nice to do.

A week or two back I looked at getting a louder horn. In the end I wasn't greatly impressed by what I saw and decided not to bother. The number of times I use a horn are minimal. It will be interesting to see whether I can achieve my goal. I might have to add extra wires and connections but it'd be nice to get things working properly. The fact that the speedometer and rev counter stop working makes me suspect a loose connection and I do see a connector swinging below the instrument panel. I'm thinking that water dripping on it could be the problem.

Lots left to do but I'm getting there. Once all that lot is done I might think about newer tyres. The rear tyres are not as essential as the fronts as it's perfectly possible to drive with a flat back tyre. I drove an entire morning bus route driving a schoolbus with a flat tyre on one of my duals - with the agreement of the work mechanic. I can't wait to go on another trip in the bus.