Sunday, February 26, 2017

I've been screwing around!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bloody daylight escaped again!

It was a lovely day - warm with a nice breeze and sunshine. Ideal for paintwork. Today therefore, the painting on the two panels for the sides of the bus were completed. Two coats is all it took. 

While the paint was curing, I worked on installing the main breaker box. It was just as awkward as I had imagined it would be and probably even more than that. Working with 10 gauge cable in a confined space is not for the faint at heart! Still, using brute force and ingenuity, the breaker box was installed. Installing a breaker was just as awkward as everything else. As the cable I made up is 20A, I put a 20A main breaker. I could upgrade to a 30A breaker if I had 30A cable. I remember putting 20A cable because it was cheaper. Something I would do differently if I was starting from scratch.

After I'd done all but tighten the bolt connecting the earth wires to the bus, I took a break and installed one of my two rear panels. The left panel went on easily enough. There was a problem with the right panel, however. Because the hillbillies had drilled a hole to install a TV aerial cable and fastened it with some kind of epoxy, there was a little cable sticking through on the inside. 

I'd trimmed the cable a year or two back as TV holds zero interest for me in my motorhome. I'd rather live my own life than spend it watching fictional episodes of other people's lives. Anyway, I looked at trimming the wood to go around the protrusion then noticed a pinhole of light. Not welcome! That means I'll have to chip that epoxy away and rivet a real patch over the hole, on the outside. 

The daylight had now escaped on me and my LED lantern had given up the ghost. I'm not surprised. It could be naff batteries or the LED lantern could be naff. I'll put my money on the LED lantern being naff because my experience to date is that LED products are universally disappointing. Out of three batches of LED light bulbs in the house I've had 80% fail in under 6 months of light usage.

The earth wire still needs to be bolted down and the cover put back over the breakers. I'll have to borrow a 3/8 spanner as my adjustable spanner is too bulky to hold it in place while I tighten the nut with my existing 3/8 spanner. 

I'd been hoping to do all of this today but wriggling around under the kitchen counter working on wiring took a long time. Mostly that was because I could work with one hand only while resting on the other. To do the bolt, I could well end up having to lie on my back under the counter.

No photos today. The daylight had gone before I had anything to show and I've not really completed either task yet anyway. When these two tasks are completed, I'll have completed the inside of the bus as planned. There are, of course, a few additions I could make though such as a gas cooktop, a 12v system for charging USB devices from a solar panel affixed to the front of the bus, a fresh water tank under the bus, a real toilet with a real black tank and a fresh water inlet. The gas cooktop could run from an underbody gas tank or from a bottle placed on the ground.

For the rest, I have still to jack the bus to check the kingpins. I have a battery to install under the bus to power the fans, the reversing horn to check and wire, the right wiper motor to replace, the right wiper switch to replace and the right wiper linkage. I'm definitely close to having a usable motorhome. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Getting board.

As it was a sunny day, I continued the work from yesterday, mindful of the things that still absolutely need to be done. This list is now getting rather short, thank goodness. It's a far cry from when I first purchased the bus and had so much to do that I barely knew where to start!

Yesterday I had cut and glued some spacers and had cut plywood offcuts to make a single panel over one window. Today I glued and screwed the spacers in place then worked on making the whole thing fit in place. The first panel was made of two pieces of wood as that was available.
It's not a perfect fit but I can caulk it. I'll glue that in place after I've painted it. I'm just hoping these glued will be up to the task!

I managed to cut the second panel from a single offcut of plywood leaving very little waste. In fact, I'd had an 8x4 sheet of plywood and had cut a 3x5 section out to put on top of a folding plastic table that was bowing. The rest had been stored until such a point as it was needed.
This is the other piece with the spacers visible. The spacers keep the plywood from resting against the rubber window gasket. It all goes toward maintaining the illusion of a prison bus on the outside. These will be helpful lest a box fall against the window. I'm sure I'll pile things way too high!

And that was my lot for the weekend. On the next fine weekend I will paint both panels. The glue is still moist so painting today would not have been such a great idea. 

Yesterday I had a look at my windscreen wiper pivot and found the ball connector is 0.5 inches. Thus I ordered a connector for it from eBay. I'll have to make a brand new set of wiper linkage but this is going to work. I'll make it work!
It's actually getting quite exciting now. I have flights of fancy but largely the motorhome will be completed fairly soon. Those flights of fancy include an instant hot water supply, a plumbed in supply I can connect to a hose pipe, a house battery etc but in reality all I need for now is the main breaker box, the windscreen wipers and the wood panels to be completed. Or there could be more...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

It rained!

Yesterday I picked up the final turnbuckle for the already installed two waste barrels. Whether I install more barrels is not yet definitively known. Today of course there were several ideas that needed to be acted on. Those were the back windows, the turnbuckle and the breaker box.

As it was cloudy but dry, I set to and cut plywood to fit the back window. As I'm using offcuts from a domestic project, one side took two pieces. Sadly, I didn't get to complete that today. Some plywood strips needed to be glued together as spacers. My glue was elderly and mostly dried hard. Thus after finding sufficient moist glue in the bottle, I glued two strips together. The next step was to head to the dollar store for more.

The dollar store had an empty space where glue had been so I had to go elsewhere. Coming out of the dollar store it was beginning to rain so it was a case of racing back in order to grab the wood and put it away before it got soaked. Plywood does not like rain! Walmart was the next stop where, of course, I picked up a few extra things. There was a little battery powered alarm clock that looked worthwhile. My old solar powered thermometer clock went bananas. I noticed Walmart no longer sells them! In order not to tempt fate, I chose the cheapest clock they had. Single function gadgets work far better than these multi function disasters.

By the time I returned with my clock, my glue and a couple of other things, it was getting cold and dark and it was still raining. You would be correct in thinking I'm disappointed with the work completed today. I was rather glad the first thing I did was to kneel beside the bus and install my final chain and turnbuckle. That took a few minutes and some pulled muscles but it was done.

My windscreen wiper is proving a challenge. The pivot is a bit too long but is usable. The problem is it has a half inch ball connector. The rest of the system uses pins. That could be challenging. As Carpenter is no longer in existence, available parts need to be utilized. One hopeful retailer had two Carpenter pivots available and wanted $167 each. Yes... over a hundred dollars for something I can get with a slightly different fitting for less than a quarter of what they wanted. No prizes for guessing that they killed their chance of selling something few people will want.

Tomorrow I hope to complete my two window covers. While I might not get as far as painting them tomorrow, I hope to get the construction and fitting completed. The main breaker box can wait a while.

Lowering my brake pedal is the next task after the windscreen wiper. I should have remembered I'd get stupid responses if I mentioned that on a forum. I did and I got the stupid responses. It seems that forums are good for simple things that are easy to work out. For anything technical, forget it! I'm reminded of what a firmer coworker by the name of Aiden once said: "Forums convey minimal technical information, create a lot of noise and waste copious amounts of time".

Things on my dream list include a water plugin, a sewage plugin, a bugger battery and another solar panel. Then there's the reversing horn and powering the door lock from solar energy. Given that the strange gadget attached to the prop shaft has no function, I'm probably going to remove it once I trace the wires back. I'd rather pay to have the real speed sensor fixed than use a cobbled together half assed addition.

Meanwhile I noticed my steering tires are Dunlop G159 which apparently fall apart at 70mph. Their maximum rating is 65mph like the remolds on the back. I've said before that I have no problem with a maximum top speed of 55mph.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Back under the bus

Today was mostly spent under the bus. In continuation of being attacked by tools and having tools disintegrate which seems to have become somewhat of a tradition, my riveter managed to pinch some belly flab today!

This is a picture of the barrel with the extra chains and hangers from yesterday. Today I installed extra hangers on the other barrel but could only install one chain as I had only one spare turnbuckle. I'll have to install the turnbuckle next weekend..
There are two fastening systems in use so if that barrel comes adrift I will be stunned. The reason for my zealous fastenings is because if that barrel came loose while I was driving, it would drop under the back wheel and could easily flip the bus.

I had another look at my main fuse box. Another patch was riveted over an existing hole. I'd retasked it so many times that it has been almost completely rebuilt. I will work on that next weekend in all likelihood.

While I was under the bus I removed the wire leading to the reversing horn. It was very loosely wrapped around the chassis, the suspension and the brake line while at the same time dangling down in huge loops. Following the wire back, I arrived at the reversing horn which had very rusty contacts. That turned out to be an Ecco 510 which seems to have very poor reviews. For the moment I'm not even sure that it's worth testing the horn.

It's so uncomfortable working under the bus that I try to keep my under bus work to a minimum. While I was down there, I looked at the strange gizmo fitted to the drive shaft. It seems to be some kind of revolution counter but the sensor and the magnets are a long way out of line. It's almost as though it's a second generation bodge.

By now you've probably realized I'm not going to put any more barrels under the bus. I keep thinking of luxurious upgrades but they're not needed. I have been asked why the only electricity is my ventilation fans. Truth be told, I didn't feel like installing roof vents. That would have probably cost the same and added both leak potential and something to catch on overhanging branches.

People think I'm nuts for not being too bothered about electricity. Now that I've gone over to a flip phone, I have a phone that has a charge that lasts a month. I wondered if I'd miss having a smart phone but I don't. I don't know whether it's that I come from a time before smart phones and home computers but I just don't find most modern technology does anything other than provide expensive and addictive entertainment. It's very forgettable.

There are still improvements I'd like to make. The first is finishing the barrel hanger, then there is the windscreen wiper, the panels over the rear windows and the main breaker. I need to clean again and to go through stuff. Finally I need to retitle the bus as a motorhome.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wow! I achieved stuff today.

The week was blooming exhausting at work. That left me feeling absolutely shattered. It wasn't until 3pm before I finally felt able to do something. Not feeling like much I adjusted the driver's eye shade, putting in some split washers in order to maintain tension, thus allowing me to adjust it while driving.

Under the bus today - yes I went under the bus - I attached two more chains to support one barrel. I didn't have enough turnbuckles to do both barrels and to be honest, by the time I'd put 4 of my new mounts under the bus and attached chain couplers and turnbuckles after cutting the chain to the right length. Putting the new chain hangers up wasn't too bad. There were a couple of mishaps. The first was when my Walmart "Tough" screwdriver made a loud cracking noise before quitting on me. The second was when a wrench came flying off a bolt and hit me in the mouth. No obvious damage but a tooth did get bumped.
Having spent most of my time under the bus, by the light from the yard light, I took my old main breaker box and made a new hole for the power input. I'll close the old power input hole another time. That breaker box has been retasked several times. This time it will go beside my distribution panel and for now will carry a 20A fuse to protect my 20A cable when plugged into a 20A or 30A socket.

In an email to my dad, I mentioned the plans I have for the bus. After adding extra hangers and chains to the other barrel, I'll make use of my excess hangers to attach a battery compartment for my ventilation battery. I might add an extra solar panel to charge a bigger battery that will power my door lock and provide accessory power to charge my phone etc while parked. I'll also add some kind of water input for externally supplied water and consider adding some kind of gas cooktop, powered by a gas bottle placed on the ground. Of course, with a gas cooktop I'll have to install some kind of powered vent over the cooktop. There's the reversing horn. There is one installed but the wiring is broken and hanging loose and draped over the brake line. Not good! I'll have to test the horn and rewire it via a switch on the console.

A few days ago, the mechanic suggested I jacked the front of the bus up to check the state of the kingpins. That's a good idea but honestly, it's time to take the bus in for a good clean and lube abyway and they can check if for kingpins as well.
If you remember, I criticized the construction of Carpenters own wiper pivot which seems to be over engineered. They had a fondness for poor quality welding. Bizarrely they even welded the arm to the pivot but welded it crookedly.
The old wiper arm was connected to the old pivot by a sort of crown wheel. After struggling to remove it from the remains of the shaft, I finally managed today, using a hammer. The thing was just wedged onto the pivot shaft. I'm just hoping that the new pivot I ordered will work. I ordered the longest I could find after working out that the original shaft had probably been 3 inches.
I'm much happier now that I have put my new barrel hangers in place. I have two barrel hanging systems. If one system turns out not to be so great, the other will save the day. The mechanics will probably guffaw because my system is good enough to hold at least 650lbs while the maximum barrel weight is 134lbs. I must say I'm looking forward to completing my bus conversion.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Visiting the International dealer

Today found me heading to Columbia's International dealer. That should have provided me with a new wiper arm, motor and pivot but as soon as I arrived, they wanted the VIN number of my bus which, of course, I didn't know and hadn't thought to copy. Then I had a brainwave and searched my wallet finding all kinds of interesting things ranging from coupons for money off soy milk that expired in 2014 to several years worth of old vehicle registrations. Oddly enough, I had one for my bus. The game was on!

After extensive searching it seemed the wiper stuff was supplied by Carpenter rather than International. As Carpenter went bust in 2001, the chance of getting the needed parts from Carpenter is slightly slimmer than the chance of finding an honest politician.

Thus, Today using my angle grinder I removed the acorn nut from the wiper arm (Dyna brand). A lock washer dropped off. I tapped the stuck core and it dropped out together with a conical knurled gripper of some kind that was firmly rusted to the shaft. I think I've saved myself the cost of a new wiper arm and blade.

The wiper pivot is clearly toast. It seems I can't get a pivot identical to the one Carpenter installed which judging from the look of the welds on it was an in house production. Carpenters workmanship is unmistakable because of its questionable nature.

I think the pivot shaft is probably about 3 inches, estimating from the pieces.

Once I have the pivot replaced, I don't think replacing the motor is much of an issue. I can't see any reason why I shouldn't use a wiper motor from a VW Jetta since they're going for around $25. It's not as though moving a 14 inch wiper over a 135 degree arc is particularly taxing! It's fairly easy to build and attach a new mount for the motor.

First priority is getting a new pivot. For that I might return to the parts department of the truck mechanic I saw yesterday. Pivots online seem to range from $20 to $40 with stupid amounts of postage whacked on top. Seriously... a small part that weighs about a pound and they want $20 postage? That's bloody ridiculous!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wiper thoughts

Hunting around today, neither Napa nor the truck servicing center had a clue about replacement parts for my windscreen wiper. Thus I trawled around online before a really crazy idea hit me! It's just a wiper motor and mechanism. It could be just any wiper motor with similar linkage and similar wiper arm length.

Looking at the arc covered by the wipers, it seems to be around 135 degrees. That's around the arc covered by the rear wiper on my Xterra!

Volkswagen Jetta wiper motors seem to be very cheap. It's not hard to make new mounts or longer linkages so I'm wondering exactly why the international wiper motors are so expensive. It's not as though the amount of glass being wiped is particularly massive.
It's also not as though there's any extra stress as all wipers are subjected to the same kinds of stress. The only difference might be the control switch but since I have to replace that anyway, that shouldn't be too hard.

Right now I'm thinking about it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The weekend and the mechanic

This weekend, not much that was planned got done. The mechanic from work visited but more to have a nose around than to do major work. He did switch my alternator belt out. The one in the bus was old and cracked. The new one by Dunlop is good but not recommended for high mileage as they tend apparently to snap.

The other thing done was to investigate the non functioning wiper. It seems that the wiper switch isn't that good and might need replacement. The wiper motor doesn't work. The relay for the switch was 15A while the relays on the other switches were all 20A. Accessing the motor was a matter of disassembling the right hand side of the dashboard. Included with that was the rerouting of the cables for my door opener.

The wiper blade wouldn't move after the motor had been uncoupled. The pivot had seized. Despite oil, it didn't budge and just snapped off. Clearly I need to start hunting for replacement parts.

Throughout his walk through of my bus, the mechanic said that what I'd built was solid and well secured and should stand up to some heavy front impact without shifting. He, of course, would have done things differently but that was from personal preference rather than anything else. He was impressed by my solar ventilation which cycled on and off while he was there.

The steering wheel and my knee meet when transferring from acellerator to brake. It was suggested that the brake pedal be adjusted on account of its being a lot higher than the acellerator. The mechanic spoke about tools being needed that he didn't have with him. I looked later and it seems to be something I can adjust myself by adjusting the push rod. In the meantime I lowered the driver's seat a notch. It does make a positive difference and judging from the lack of paint under the nut on the highest setting where the seat had been, nobody had ever adjusted the seat!

Accidentally, I pulled the seat bottom off. It took forever to get it back in place. When I eventually figured out that one of the attachments was bent and straightened it, it clipped nicely into place.

I had hoped the mechanic would do a lot more but this was his weekend. He works as a mechanic all week and does deserve time away from mechanical stuff. I think I'm going to end up learning a lot about mechanics. I could do with a Haynes manual for my bus, particularly the engine.

Still left to do and this is the short list from inside the bus...
Install the main breaker box
Install two guards over the two rear windows beside the back door.

Underneath the bus.
Add two more chains for each existing barrel, using my newly made mounts.
Work out what the strange thing on the drive shaft is. That might involve getting the numbers off it and looking them up.

Now I have a windscreen wiper to work on. What a pain that is! I'm going to have to check to see if the gearbox on the wiper motor is good or not as the motor is available separately. It could just be that the motor is jammed by a stalled gearbox.

I've been advised to check the kingpins on the front wheels by jacking up one side and pulling the wheel to see if it rocks. It seems I'll need a 20 ton jack. I have reservations about how much weight I can put on the sandy soil here. Indeed, after fixing the wiper and working out whether the strange thing on the propshaft is anything to bother about.

I still have to retitle the bus.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chugga chugga

Over the last few days I had several goes at charging the bus batteries. By the time around 22 hours of charging has been amassed - 8 hours one day, 8 the next and 6 the day after, it became obvious that my undated AC Delco batteries are dead. Indeed, a straight edge placed across the ends showed the ends to be slightly curved. I have very much the feeling that my bus had been used not as a mobile hunting cabin as described but more as a static cabin. Then somebody fixed it up to go and sold it to me.

I looked around at batteries and eventually spotted a really cheap pair at $100 each. The warranty was only 3 months but they should in theory have lasted a couple of years or so I figured.

So, I popped into Advance Auto on SC302 and spoke with an older guy who knew immediately what I needed and took me straight to it. They had only one battery and would order the other. I decided to try to revive my old batteries then to come back in a few days. Thus a few days later I returned having failed to get the batteries charged. This time, the helpful fellow wasn't there and I was faced with somebody that didn't really know what a battery looked like. Indeed, they never offered to order me a battery having failed to find it and walked away mid conversation. Needless to say, I took my business elsewhere.

What a difference, I went to the same people that replaced the faulty oil pressure sender on my car a few weeks ago. They were overjoyed to have the business. They weren't quite sure what I was asking for but read out my specification of Group 31, 950CCA with studs to their battery supplier and announced surprised that the new batteries would be in the store later in the afternoon. Thus, this morning I went and picked them up. It was so nice to have a supplier that gets the customer what the customer wants. So they charged a few extra dollars - so what? I was happy to pay the extra for the excellent service!

After getting the batteries home, I cleaned out the nastiness from the battery compartment. It had been full of dead leaves. That's some of what makes me suspect the bus had been a static cabin. Then I installed the batteries, wiring the kill switch in correctly. It still needs to be properly mounted, however.

Flipping the kill switch to the on position, i inserted my key into the ignition and the engine started right away. That's a job well done! Now there's no reason why the mechanic on Saturday won't have an easier time!