Friday, February 27, 2015

Scored a shower base for $40!

Yesterday, having decided to abandon the bathtub idea, I looked online for shower bases. They came in a wide assortment of sizes and shapes but started at $100 rising to several thousand dollars. That was a bit pricy and the cheapass in me had me looking online. 

After hunting for quite a while I chanced upon somebody local selling surplus hardware. They weren't advertising shower bottoms but contact showed that they did and at decent prices too. Thus today I drove to their premises and purchased for $40 a really nice shower bottom. 

Having got a shower bottom,I could commence construction of the bedroom wall, now knowing what the width had to be in order to accommodate the shower beside the doorway. Of course a second trip had to be undertaken because the position of the shower meant more PVC planking was needed, upon which would rest the framework for the wall.

Cutting the wood to fit the strange quirks of the bodywork was easier than I had imagined. Clearly my woodworking class in highschool was useful! Needless to say, my woodowking will probably make a bona fide carpenter grimace or wet himself.

Having the first beam up gives me great hope that the rest of the construction will be this easy! Tomorrow's task will be to construct the entire wall and possibly the door too.Sunday's task will be to complete the wiring of the reversing camera and possibly to mount it also. Sunday its supposed to be rainy day and days like that are excellent for doing electrical work. I have a lot of electrical work to do!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bah.... Leaks!

Today I went into my bus. It had been raining hard all day and all night. Oddly enough my purpose in going in was to measure the bath tub in order to calculate the size of shower I could install. The bath was 30x60 inches but the allowable space is just 56 inches. Online, various sized shower bases are available. As there's precious little headroom, I will need a wide shower in order to accommodate a seat. Fortunately there seem to be plenty shower bases around that will suit.

Meanwhile, I checked for leaks. The leak over the wheel arch was still present and there was a leak in the toilet area. The window I moved has a leak right at the top and there's still a leak into the driver foot well. Those will be attended to soon. None are anything major. Until the leak over the wheel arch is attended to, the bedroom installation could have some interesting issues.

About the only thing that I did inside the bus today was to remove the bath and heave it out. I had glued a piece of wood to my PVC floor with silicone sealant. Fortunately the sealant had not worked. This is worrying though as it means my planks by the leaky door might not be well sealed. I will have to check my seals. Maybe I just have a duff tube of sealant?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Well bugger!

Today, after having been to Lowes to get bits to plumb in my bath, I went underneath the bus with a tape measure. The blasted drain hole is precisely where a chassis member is situated. There are several ways around this.

1. Toss the blasted bath out of the back door and install a real shower as was the original plan before I went cheapass.
2. Turn the bath around. The bath is unidirectional so it would have to be on the other side of the bus, where the kitchen is currently situated. This would entail more PVC planks for the floor and extra expense.
3. Raise the bath about six inches in order to accommodate more convenient plumbing. This would make existing headroom even more restricted which is unacceptable.
4. Move the bath forward toward the front by about six inches, reducing the dinette to a single seat affair.
5. Move the bath back toward the rear. This would be a problem because of the wheel arch.

The bath is already 60 inches and the space for two windows is 56 inches so already its a problem needing extra carpentry. I regret the work I put in trying to make the damned thing fit. That's without cost of the materials wasted so far trying to make it work.

So far, nothing the hillbillies installed in the bus has been remotely usable. Their electrics were terrible and had to be ripped out. Their metalwork was appalling and couldn't be recycled. The replacement fan belt they left in the bus was the wrong size. The replacement fan was the wrong kind. The replacement horn I have not tried as the existing one works.

There seem three ways forward from this mess.
1. Toss the bath away (its bent anyway) and build a shower.
2. Concentrate on completing the bedroom area.
3. Pay for a proper shower.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Taking a shower

Yesterday due to a work commitment I was unable to work on the bus. Today, however, I made up for that sad lack. Not only is the final board for the bath floor down and sealed but the beginnings of a solid bath mount are present also as is the bath. The wall pictured was just balanced in place while the general layout of the place was studied. It seems to work well enough.

After getting so far, it became self evident that the plumbing would have to be addressed before installation could be finalized. Of course, having visited Lowes for plumbing parts, the daylight had escaped.

The plan is to pass a pipe through the bus floor with a u bend underneath the bus. Of course if there's a chassis member in the way, the plan might have to change slightly.

Next week, the plan is to complete the shower as far as the drain and installation are concerned. Waterproofing and the water supply will be worked out later.

While at Lowe's, m'lady rand to request that I brought her grits and a coconut cake. Walmart being next door to Lowes, I pulled into Walmart's parking lot, in torrential rain. Having completed my shopping I exited Walmart to be greeted by an entertaining spectacle.

A clearly drunk woman escaped through the side door of an ambulance outside the entrance to be rounded up by the ambulance staff and reloaded into the ambulance. Walmart staff and their security detail were in the background observing and commenting. Walmart is always entertaining!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fair progress

Over the weekend, some progress was made but the cry as ever is that not enough was done. The first plastic plank was cut and bolted down There was a major holdup in that the previous owner had poured copious quantities of some kind of silicon goop beside all the plywood they had laid and this had to be removed. Removing it was more time consuming than it needed to be.

The silicon goop was about an inch thick and as I'd seen a silicon remover spray, I bought some under the illusion that it might actually have worked. Sprayed onto the silicon, it made the silicone slippery and smelly but had no tangible effect other than that of making a mess. Definitely not a desirable result! It took a day for that stuff to dry, during which I looked at the electrical system and installed two new switches on the dashboard and rewired the old top strobe switch.

The top strobe switch now operates a reversing camera screen. The camera has not yet been installed as the cable provided was a mere 20 feet long and the bus is 40 feet. A new cable was obtained from Radio Shack and I'll have to return to Radio Shack for some more switches since I need to replace the windscreen-wiper switch.

While I was thinking about passing the wiring, I remembered that I have yet to do trailer lighting and an internal power cable for USB services. Good job I remembered those. I can put the whole bundle together to save time. The trailer cable gives me the most problems as I'd like to do it with a single cable with relays but this might not be possible. I might well end up having to run a bundle of cables - possibly as many as five for:
1 Braking light circuit,
2 Rear red circuit,
3 Two circuits for the amber flashers,
4 Sidelights.
Add in a USB power cable and the camera cables and the bunch of wiring quickly becomes massive.

So, I ripped up the old silicon goop with a screwdriver. None of the other methods actually worked. Having done that, there was an angled piece of metal at 45 degrees between the floor and wall. That meant that to lie flat, the boards had to be an inch away from the wall and new silicon goop laid. In turn this meant that my cuts to the plywood were an inch short of where they needed to be. The upshot to that was the fourth and final plank never got laid. As there's rust visible on the exposed metal, that will have to be treated before new goop can be put down.

I took a couple of drives in the bus over the weekend. One to get a plastic plank and some treated 2x4 for the bath mounting and one to visit the locksmith. The locksmith put his thinking hat on and will get back to me with his ideas for bus locks.

The wood for the bath mount is quite moist to the touch and required thus to be left in the bus to dry out. The upshot was that not as much as I wanted to do was done but that's the whole song of the bus conversion.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


  Today started with the intent of laying plastic planks underneath the bathtub area. Needless to say, by the time I had swept up the debris, the DAPTex garbage which had taken forever to  set had also brushed away as a powder. That stuff is so bloody useless that anybody buying it is a fool. I have two containers of it that will be used as a rifle target. Maybe they will produce entertaining results as they explode.

It didn't help that I'm not quite over my bug of the past week or so. Needless to say, I did what I normally do when not feeling well. I concentrated on the electrics as I can do 90% of that, just sitting in the driving seat. The electrical work did involve a trip to Walmart and Lowes. Lowes had some silicone caulk remover that sprayed onto the silicone I wanted to remove from where the hillbillies had plastered it. Spraying it on didn't make any appreciable result other than making it slimy for my ultimate tool of last resort. The tool of ultimate last resort was a screwdriver. In fading light, when I had recovered a bit, I dug it all out and probably tomorrow will work on the plastic planking.

Walmart had stuff that I needed for the electrics and some stuff the bus mechanic (who turned up today) recommended. He secured a loose power steering hose and recommended more power steering fluid. He found my brakes were brand new and that the oil had a thickening agent and that the sump gasket needed to be replaced. Apparently my oil will be good for about 10,000 miles. He suggested a grease gun so I go a grease gun and some grease.

For the electrics, I got a load of connectors since most things seem to be connected via spade connectors, a couple of switches and some other interesting things. Perhaps my daftest purchase was a combined compass, clock, temperature gauge. It could be fun even though the clock is a bit small to view easily.

Carpenter's electrics inside the console were quite straightforward. There was a negative panel and a positive rail. The old top strobe switch became the switch that will be used for my new reversing camera. The old power cable for the strobe might become the power cable for the reversing camera. The upshot was that the screen worked well and when I tested it with the camera, it worked just fine.

The light went and the temperature dropped so I had to call it quits for the day. Tomorrow aside from taking m'lady out for dinner (we chose to have a Valentine's day dinner the day after Valentine's day in order to avoid the rush), I shall be installing the plastic planks. I might even have to buy more. With luck and a fair wind, the bedroom partitions might go up also. I might even work in the wiring for the camera, even counting in a visit to Radio Shack or Lowes or somewhere similar for an extension cable.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Radio Shack is closing - woe is me!

The not terribly unexpected news that Radio Shack is closing arrived by pigeon post a few days ago. If anything, it proves the recession is still rumbling onward. It's an echo of the closures of Ritz, Circuit City and others. Normally I would not even think twice about Radio Shack because it's expensive and doesn't actually carry anything terribly useful - aside from the minuscule electronics section. Now there I might find some blade fuse holders. Those, of course, I will be using on the bus.

The plan is to wire in the following electrics via a brand new fuse box so that I don't have to figure out what the Hell Carpenter did with their wiring.
1. Charger socket for my cellphone.
2. Power socket for my GPS.
3. Power socket for a reversing camera & screen
4. Power socket for a front facing camera to record as evidence the stupid driving of others just in case I need to use it in my defence.
5. Power socket for a CB radio.

A wise person told me it's easier to do my own wiring than to figure out somebody else's and thus, this is the plan. The backup camera arrived today and will be the first thing wired into the system. The next will be a reversing horn.

Plans for the weekend include building the bathroom, checking the engine oil, getting fuel since the price is beginning to rise, taking the bus to get some locks fitted and fitting the reversing camera, even if the electrical bits aren't completed in time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A weekend of seemingly little accomplishment

It doesn't seem that I did much this weekend but let's run through the things I did do.

Last week having discovered what lights do and don't work, I'd bought a pile of bulbs. I replaced two non-functioning panel lamps so now the whole of the switch panel can be illuminated. I replaced the two bad side light bulbs on the one side of the bus, finding as I did so that the red side light is probably in need of replacement rather than of a new bulb. This is not a major thing but I like everything that should work to work.

The toilet floor is now screwed down fully and I completed the silicone caulking around the edge of the floor and the door. This looks a load better and will be rust and rot resistant.

I moved the bath and started to cut the plywood near the end of the bath so that the entire of the bath can rest on plastic rather than on wood as an anti-rot thing. I started this with an ordinary saw and proceeded quite well but later decided that having spent 3 hours making quite an impression that a circular saw with the depth gauge set would probably have been a smarter idea, I borrowed one from my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend and had that wood sliced to perfection in minutes. A few more minutes with a pry bar and then a chisel to trim the lower layer that didn't get cut with the saw  combined with removing the screws holding the wood down and the floor was ready. Well, almost. There was a drain hole cut through the floor but in totally the wrong place. That had to be filled.

On the subject of filling, I also filled the hole in the side of the bus that the hillbilies had cut to pass a water pipe. If astute readers remember, the plexiglass window replacements the hillbillies had used had been secured into place with wide strips of aluminum. Cut into short lengths, two lengths covered respectively the inside and outside holes. These were glued into place with silicone sealant and then riveted. Outside, the rivet heads were covered with epoxy resin. Between the two riveted patches, I squirted some of that DAPTex garbage. It might or might not set but whatever it does, it will provide a measure of insulation.

The drain hole in the floor was a bigger issue. Though it won't be carrying weight, I patched the hole with 1/4 inch thick aluminum.  That was glued into place with silicone caulk the holes having been pre-drilled while the patch was above the floor. My girlfriend's sister's boyfriend held the patch up underneath the bus and I popped the rivets through the three holes that matched. The fourth was marginally off but three was enough to hold the patch while I drilled a further few to bring the rivets up to 12. A herd of elephants could do a fandango on that patch now and it won't let water nor fall through.

As there was now a recess in the floor, I filled it with DAPTex since it won't actually stick to anything without dripping, dropping and falling. Checking it three days later - the stuff still had not set. That stuff is the most appalling garbage I have ever encountered. I tried it to seal windows and it dripped and dribbled instead of foaming and caused a horrendous mess that it will take days and a coat of paint to repair. I tried to use it to level up a depression and it just became a jello-like substance that I can probably scoop out with the fingers of an underspecified hand. It was pretty much like a very soft marshmallow. Useless!

I never got round to cutting planks for the bathroom floor. I went out to get them and encountered two issues. The first was an oil leak and the second was one of South Carolina's suicidal drivers. Coming downhill on 321, heading toward the I26 overpass at slightly under the 45mph speed limit, a black pickup drove from a McDonalds toward the center of the road. I remember stomping on the brake, knowing that I could not possibly bring 26,000lbs of bus to a halt in the space allowed and hoping that the pickup driver wouldn't die. I was absolutely certain that a collision would occur and that the pickup truck would get severely mangled and thrown God knows where. None of that would have been any fault other than of that stupid driver. Anyway, to my relief, he made it out of the way and incurred the wrath of the driver in the lane beside me who was far enough back not to have been able to see him coming. Had the hillbillies not moved the horn button from the center of the wheel to the door control, I'd have been pounding that horn.

So, next time you see a big vehicle remember that they take longer to accelerate than a car and way longer to brake. There's a damn good reason I drive fractionally under the speed limit and that is to give myself more chance of stopping my big vehicle without killing anybody. Remember, my bumper is 3 feet above the ground. My wheels are 3 feet diameter. If you stop suddenly in front of me, the first I will know is a bump-bump as my front wheels go over the roof of your little car, crushing you to death in the process. You'll be dead and won't have to worry about your asinine actions. I'll have to live with the nightmares you created for the rest of my life.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Bathroom about to commence

Today started with a somewhat exciting and nerve-wracking drive to Habitat for Humanity to see whether they had any shower units. As it turned out, they did have a shower unit but it was built into a bath so the footprint would have been no improvement. That was a disappointment. Across the road however as Lowes and they had the 2x4 I desperately needed for construction of my bed. I also picked up another plastic plank for use underneath the bath.

The drive to the store was pretty much OK though an idiot in a big black pickup truck decided to play chicken, darting across the road in front of me. I had to jam on the brakes and pray that going downhill at 45mph, the brakes would at least slow me enough that I'd only hit the back of his truck. He managed to get out of the way but incurred the ire of the driver in the lane to my left who must have had to jam his brakes on also. Arriving at the store I noticed my idling oil pressure had dropped from 40PSI to 20PSI. Popping the hood, I could see oil covering pretty much everything and a tiny drip of oil. In a panic, I texted the mechanic I know and received a reassuring message back that it was OK as long as there was enough oil in the system. Watching the oil pressure gauge like a hawk, after visiting Lowes, I made it back to Pelion.

Parked, I set to working on the inside of the bus. The first thing was to try the hole stopper caps that I'd bought in Lowes the day before. Those were too big, sadly so I went on with crewing down the toilet floor white planks. Those were screwed down with hexagon head self-drilling screws. While doing that and applying silicone caulk between the boards, I considered making my own cover for the holes in the side of the bus from steel sheet though as yet I had no steel sheet.

Looking around for spare steel I saw the aluminum strips that had been used to hold in the old plexiglass windows. One of the strips looked wide enough and so it was cut to form a plate over the outside of the hole. Simply put, it was glued in place with silicone caulk, drilled and riveted. Life wasn't that simple though! The 1/8" rivets were bigger than the 1/8" drill bit by about 1/32 That did not make life very easy as a bigger drill had to be borrowed in order to complete the operation. That done, an aluminum plate was riveted over the biggest hole cut into the side of the bus by the hillbillies.

That done, I pulled out the DAPTex again and tried again to seal the window I moved. Even though it was warm, the DAPTex was still useless. This time it foamed and kinda-sorta squirted into place but wouldn't stick to horizontals. Thus the DAPTex was dumped back into the pile of cans waiting to be used at the rifle range. The window was sealed with silicone caulk as it should have been weeks ago.

Having sealed the outside of the bus, there was a corresponding hole on the inside. Between the two there was insulation but as I had no insulation to put in, I taped over the inside hole and squirted DAPTex inside. Maybe it will have some use since it is now foaming. If not, no matter. I will buy foam to insert then put a metal plate on the inside.

Tomorrow? Well, the bus mechanic might be arriving. As I marked out the floor to cut the plywood ready to replace it with plastic planks the light went out so that might be a job for tomorrow. That, and replace the burned out light bulbs that I bought replacements for the other day. I suspect the mechanic will be busy checking brakes, ABS and fixing the oil leak.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Whoa there, Nellie!

Today I picked up the engine operator's manual for the DT466. Wow... Have I been doing things wrong! There's a whole checklist to go through before even starting the engine that I'm just not following. There are different ways even of starting the engine, dependent upon ambient temperature. The most startling uses a key switch position I didn't even know existed which pumps pure ether into the engine to get it going before diesel gets pumped in. I can bet my boots the ether reserve is empty.

There's a section on the oil pressure gauge and what it should read and how soon as well as what to do if it doesn't. Forget driving cars. This is NOTHING like driving a car. Driving this bus is a much more interesting proposition.

My next task once I know more about the engine will be to draw up a check list to keep on a clipboard beside the driver's seat. There's a lot to learn about operating this bus. I had no idea that busses had more in common with steam engines than with cars in terms of daily checks and maintainance.

Driving the bus is a handful. Driving with traffic is another handful. Starting it is looking more like a logistical operation but what they say in the manual makes a heap of sense. I can't believe I put off reading the manuals for so long! Truth be told, I get intimidated by large manuals.

What can I say, this is serious machinery designed seriously and it must be operated seriously too. I intend to take that responsibility head on.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hillbilly workmanship

Today I just did small things - nothing major. Well, maybe it was major - I worked on the wiring the hilbillies put in. What an outstanding mess that was! Cables just hanging with no power and no purpose either.

First task of the day was to open the switch console. Inside was a card with phone numbers of various Louisiana government officials, a roughly scribbled handwritten note, a Pokemon card and another insect nest. Two of the three bulbs illuminating the control panel were burnt out and will have to be replaced. Entering the control panel were two wires. One had positive and negative connections. The other was the remains of a cigarette socket. Neither had power.

Having removed those, I noted with amazement or rather incredulity that the bus horn was connected to a button wired via the fuse box. It was not fused in any meaningful way. There's a lot of bad workmanship. I really can't make up my mind whose workmanship is worse - Carpenter's or the hillbillies'.

Another thing I did was to screw down the first plastic plank and to seal it against leaks from the doorway. With luck, that will work. Needless to say I ran out of sealant and had to run to the store. While I was there I looked around and found timber suitable for the bath support and cheap vinyl siding which should be really good as a lining for the shower area.