Sunday, April 30, 2017

Working wipers

Yes, readers, my wipers are now working albeit with a few caveats.

What was meant to be a quick half a morning job turned into a complete weekend. As mentioned before, the wiper motor that was condemned by the mechanic from work turned out to work. It looks to have a 3 wire connection like that of a Jeep Wrangler. Those connections are fast, slow and park except that it doesn't seem to park. No matter!
I started off by mounting the motor semi horizontally instead of down the hole to the left of the motor. Anyway, it was an all day fight to get this far. It was a case of constant minor adjustments until the system worked.

After I thought I'd finished, the power cables that work my door motor came apart. Those are the same cables that worked perfectly until the mechanic took an interest and adjusted them by adding spade connectors. That took a while to fix.

I ran the wiper off a small 12v battery very successfully. The cables from the console didn't seem to do anything, I didn't have time to check the switch or console wiring today. I suspect I'll have to do more wiper adjustment and replace the wiper switch.

One thing I definitely have to do is to buy a 1/4 to 5/16 bush. The $40 wiper pivot (which I had to modify) has a 1/4 inch bolt connecting the connecting rod to the pivot. It really needs a 5/16 pin but if I put a bush on the bolt, it should work just fine.

It was so nice to see the wiper moving for the first time ever!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

An extremely odd week

This has been a very busy bus related week. I've not had anything stunning enough to be able to write a good blog entry about though. The highlights were...

  • Multiple visits to Radio Shack with their 90% off closing sale. During this I bought a couple of duffers in the form of reed switches that didn't work the way needed and hence the buzzers also purchased were redundant. I bought far more fuse holders and switches than I'll probably use in a lifetime. Then when I went back for more fuses, they'd boxed up their electronics and shipped them to another store, leaving a pair of 5000mah D cell NiMh batteries that looked good value. After I got them home I found they were really repackaged C cells going online for half of Radio Shacks full price. Having said that, they'd be usable in my 4 D cell lantern if I can get another pair.
  • A couple of visits to Carolina Fleet that ended up with my buying a used wiper motor for the bus. That turned out not to be such a bargain as it worked only on high speed and intermittent. Then, playing around, I found the old wiper motor that had been condemned by the work mechanic and which had been lying in the dirt and the rain on the ground outside for the past couple of months actually worked when sprayed with WD40 and powered up.
  • Thus far I've been unable to identify where the brake pedal plunger goes and given the black widow bite of a couple of weeks ago, I'm wary of going under the bus to look.
  • Extra connectors for my ammunition box power supply are on their way. Those were ordered via eBay.
  • While I was at Carolina Fleet, I looked at replacement convex mirrors to replace my clouded mirrors. They had none that matched my vehicle so I looked online. eBay was by far the most expensive place with ridiculous prices. I found I could get a pair, which is lucky because both are bad, for less than $20 though shipping was $15. That price can't be beaten by eBay or Amazon.
  • Work (I drive schoolbusses for a living at the moment) offered me a contract for more work starting in August. My current contract expires at the beginning of June. Clearly I'm worth reemploying but given the low $12 an hour pay for a 30 hour week that's not paid during holidays, it's barely worth returning. Basically it's not a good idea to return unless there's nothing better to do. My sole  goal from working for the school district of learning how to drive my motorhome has been accomplished.
Today I started work on the new wiper system. Given that the motor appears to work, I'm using it. The other motor could work but only if I redrill the mounting holes. One might be mistaken for thinking nothing is happening when I sit around, looking at things but in fact I'm working out various ways of doing things using available tools and supplies.

The hillbillies had used some very thick aluminum which would make an ideal spacer for my wiper pivot. I started by measuring and drilling the aluminum after cutting it to size. Then I had a disaster and broke one of my tools. This is not unusual, given that I'm working in challenging conditions with no vice nor a drill press etc. Fortunately, I don't think it's a tool that absolutely has to be replaced. 

My first attempts prove I'm on the right track. My biggest issue is not having a drill of large enough diameter for the new pivot. Without trying it in the hole on the bodywork I rather suspect I'll have to enlarge that hole too. That'll definitely need a bigger drill bit.

Thinking about the pivot arm being longer, that'll just shorten the wiper stroke a bit. That doesn't particularly worry me. The different connectors is what gives cause for concern. It would be possible though to use a short bolt instead of the pin on the original that's missing on the new pivot. 

I had hoped to get the wiper motor working and installed today but that looks like being a little elusive. In order to get it done tomorrow, a shopping trip to buy drill bits of the correct sizes was in order. Thus, since it was too late in the day to head to Harbor Freight,  I visited Lowes (hiss, spit).

Returning from Lowes (hiss, spit) with an extraordinarily expensive drill bit that cost an unbelievable $20, I quickly set to work and drilled a 3/4 inch hole with my ludicrously expensive drill bit and two 1/4 inch holes. With that, I beat a hasty retreat due to swarms of mosquitoes surrounding me in the dusk.

Tomorrow I shall cut a steel shim to fit over the aluminum. That will build the swivel up to a usable height. After that it'll be time for a trial fitting. Then I'll either need an extra shim or to drill a couple of final holes. It's coming along very nicely! Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to include pictures.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Done some tidying

Although there are things I want to do, I ended up doing only some tidying and nothing much else. If you remember, I took advantage of Radio Shack's sale and bought a pile of fuse holders, switches and so on.

It transpires that the reed relays are normally open. I'd thought they'd have been normally open one side and normally closed the other. As it is, they're useless for my door alarms. That's a shame but I did find they're incredibly loud when connected to a 9v battery. Enough to waken the dead so great for a door alarm!

One of miladys chickens had laid an egg in the middle of the pen where it would be impossible to reach. Rather than leave it there, I decided it would be best broken and then the chickens could eat it. Thus I hunted for my aur pistol. Hunting for the pellets took quite a while, proving just how much sorting and tidying I need to do. I saw plenty stuff kept that would probably be best in the garbage and that's without trying on all my clothes, many of which are too small now. Anyway, the end of the story is I found my air pistol and the egg literally exploded when shot with a .177 pellet. After that I played around, shooting cans before returning to the bus.

I'm still going through phases when I have a feverish temperature. I'm not fully over the Black Widow bite yet though the red patch on my back is fading. The black spot in the center is new and intreaguing but not yet a cause for concern. In any case, while I can afford health insurance, I cannot afford the copay needed to use it!

I looked at the components I'd bought from Radio Shack and could not really see what I had. Everything was wrapped in nasty plastic pouches, obscuring the items and crucially wasting space. I spent a few minutes slitting wrappings with a razor and dumping things into a cardboard box. I'm sure I have far more that needs similar treatment. I removed a full carrier bag of plastic trash from the bus.

The interesting thing is that almost all of the Radio Shack fuse holders have non standard connections. They have 3/16th inch blade connectors as opposed to the normal 1/4 inch connector. The Radio Shack batteries have the same narrow connectors. As luck would have it though, I bought a pack of Radio Shack connectors that actually fit. They're non insulated which I do not like but it is what it is.

My new plan for the console is to put fuse holders into the console and to use some of my new Radio Shack switches in place of my Walmart shiny steel switches. The newer switches have blade connectors and some are illuminated to show they're on. Some of the new fuse holders are illuminated to show when a fuse is blown. That's useful!

Looking at one of my ammunition boxes I realized one would do really well under the bus as a housing for my air intake. With a closable lid it will be far easier to replace the filter. It should even be possible to use ordinary PVC piping as ductwork from the side of the bus and through the floor as an inlet. That would work well for me but it would have to be installed after black widow season is over!

The brake pedal had my attention today. It definitely needs to be lowered. I'm wondering whether somebody has switched it out at some point for a short one. It definitely didn't come from the factory like that. The adjustment is probably going to be at the Master Cylinder. As that's underneath the bus, I'll be leaving that alone for the moment.
I looked but could not see the other end of the brake push rod under the hood. It's probably obscured by the engine.

I think the priority right now is probably cleaning and tidying inside, sorting out and finding tools then sorting my clothes. I know there are a ton of documents relating to an unpleasant court case that I'd been keeping for reference though now that the other party is deceased I doubt there's much point. I've kept lots of other documents too such as sales competition winning certificates from when I did retail. My last employer used to shower me with certificates, most of which I just threw away, fortunately.

I'll have to look into getting normally closed reed switches. The switches etc are upgrades. They're not necessary for normal bus operation. Actually, I'm having new thoughts about the battery position for the rear vents and about adding front solar panels as well as the air induction system. For the moment they're not priorities.

Priorities are to get the pedals correctly adjusted, the short out of the electrics and the underbody steamed and greased. That'll be a mechanics task. The windscreen wiper motor etc I can do myself. That's simple engineering. I'll have to take the hood off the transmission and trace that strange white wire I found a few weeks ago. I would rather have a speedo that's 2mph out than use some add on speedo that's been badly installed. I could also do the installation properly! Things to think about. Retitling I feel I should concentrate on though.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bitten by a Black Widow

When I worked under the bus on Friday last week, something must have crawled onto my overalls. When I sat inside the bus, doing my last blog entry I felt something crawling on my back, inside my overalls and reached up to brush it off. I felt a sharp pain and thought nothing of it.

The next day I didn't feel particularly well and my back hurt where whatever it was had bitten me. Sunday I did one or two completely insignificant things in the bus and was exhausted. I grabbed my thermometer out of interest and came up with a temperature not far shy of 100F. It was later confirmed I did have a temperature. In the evening, the bite mark was spotted. Two indentations quarter of an inch apart in an inch diameter very red, very hot ring with a white center. Looking at pictures of various bites, only the Black Widow was an exact match. That would tie in with the fever and the fact I still have the mark a week later.

Even today, 8 days later I'm not feeling so good. I've worked all week but as work is 3 hours in the morning then 3 hours in the afternoon with a nap in between, it hasn't been too bad. Today I went to a work meeting then shopping. When it came to putting stuff away, I was shattered and almost unable to perform even that simple task!

Today's shopping was pretty simple and consisted solely of Harbor Freight and Sportsmans Warehouse. Harbor Freight had shrink wrap cable sleeving, cable conduit and another steel ammunition box. Sportsmans Warehouse had some interesting water jerrycans but they were far more expensive than Walmart. They did, however carry plenty pistol ammunition so I stocked up with 9mm and .357 Magnum, 9mm is ok for general fun on the range but .357 is my self defense caliber.

Thursday and Friday after work I'd been to Radio Shack where the closing sale was up to 90% off. So, on Thursday I bought a few small things including some reed switches but mainly, two 7ah lead acid batteries. Those will fit an ammunition box and will work as a portable power pack for charging electronics. The reed switches will work with a battery and a buzzer. I had a buzzer already and discovered it was very loud when used with a 1.5V battery. To switch them on and off, only the presence or absence of a magnet is needed. Thus, putting the switch, buzzer and battery on a door frame and the magnet on the door produces a very nice door alarm. I figure an alarm for the back and side doors. The front door would benefit from a lamp that comes on when the door is opened.

No photos. I'm just too exhausted. I just hope recovery isn't going to take too much longer! And before you ask, I have health insurance. I can barely afford the premiums and cannot afford the copay to actually benefit from it. So, no - can't afford to visit the doctor. I just have to tough it out.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I moved it

Yes folks, the battery box has been moved. It was in the closet at the back of the bus near the fans and the solar panels. It made sense at the time. It's now moved to the cockpit where it also makes sense. With the long length of cabling I have taken the liberty of adding a fuse, just in case.

Today I connected all the wires that I'd installed on Friday. Then I ported the battery box to the front and tried to get it working. Oops, nothing happened. Then I noticed I'd reversed the battery polarity at the charge controller. Fearing a blown controller I set the wires right and it started working. Now that was a relief!
So, after all that it was a case of sweeping and moving boxes back to the closet. While I moved them I looked inside. All clothes. I had no idea I had so many clothes! I'll have to have a sort out. There's precious little point in donating to charity and using the donation as a tax deduction. I did my taxes this week and ended up with no tax to be paid and a refund despite the fact that until October I'd been paying zero tax. I don't think donations would have raised that refund any. Mind, I don't think they actually charge tax on incomes under $10K.

The next task will be to secure the batteries in my ammunition box and to add plugable connectors. Yesterday I visited Radio Shack and took full advantage of their 80% off going out of business sale. I spent a massive $7 but this time rather than air-head electronic garbage (the kind of stuff that the high school electronics classes I had tell me would be good but rapidly turns out not to work), I got practical stuff. Some blade fuses and some connectors. They're allegedly XLR audio connectors but the look like they'll handle the small amounts of power I'm using. 
I had a look at my windscreen wiper pivot. It looks very much as though with modification of the original mounting bracket I can install it. The pivot arm is too long but that's what angle grinders are for! I will probably have to weld something to the original bracket but that's really not a problem. Getting it square is going to be the biggest challenge!

I still have plenty to do.
  • Fix the right hand wiper
  • Check the kingpins
  • Lower the brake pedal
  • Install forced air ventilation 
  • Install a water inlet
  • Clean
  • Toss out junk
  • Clear out I'll fitting clothes
I think after I've finished fixing up the battery box, fixing the wiper, lowering the brake pedal and checking the kingpins, it's time to retitle as a motorhome. At the very least, it's time to send off to get it retitled. After I've sent off, I can always work on forced air and the water in etc.

One of my thoughts with the battery box has been to put a second battery box. The first contains two batteries. One is 10ah and one is 5ah. My solar panels at the back are both 10W combining as 20W. Powering fans directly they were pretty good. With a battery and a charge controller they don't go as strongly but they're more consistent. I'm reasonably happy with 5ah.

The air induction fan needs to shift more air. I might be better with a more powerful fan. I don't want solar panels at the front that look like solar panels so I will have to try to find some of the black looking panels. I've seen some 30W panels and if I can put two of those in place I might be ok. One could feed the 10AH battery and the air induction fan. The other could feed a second power box containing the same 15ah but with a double USB charging socket mounted. That would allow me to charge my tablet, phone and a MiFi pad.

Thinking further ahead, it might be an idea to use my Peltier module and to get more Peltier modules so that when plugged into a 120v supply I could have air conditioning. Peltier stuff is horribly energy inefficient but that's on paper. 10 x 12V Peltier elements in series with a bridge rectifier should run well off a 120v line. Each unit consumes I believe 60W for a total of 600W or 5 amps. Building the forced air unit with the option of adding Peltier coolers would be a good idea.

In terms of cost, 10 Peltier coolers plus 20 heat sinks plus heat sink grease will cost more than a standard AC unit, uses more power and performs only 20F of cooling. Having said that, its way more compact and totally maintainance free. On the other hand this could be air-head highschool electronics surfacing 33 years after I left high school. I wonder how many of my old teachers are still alive. I remember the science and electronics guy was Mr Pugh.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Heat exhaustion

Yup. I went out in the heat to work under my bus. It was very hot and I was quickly tired so I worked under the bus then sat inside and drank tea. I alternated like that, most of the day. It was only when I was doing the final work inside the bus that heat exhaustion turned into dizziness.

The upshot of the day is that the cable conduit is now fully secured underneath the bus and a troupe of Japanese Sumo Wrestlers could perform acrobatics from the cables without them coming adrift. I also installed a wire that reaches the solar charge controller. That wire passes through the floor and connects with the extra wire that I put through the conduit under the bus.

No photos today. Fastening conduit in awkward places took most of my time and though there's not much actual work there, the majority of time was spent wriggling into position, contorting my body into position to drive in self drilling screws then to remove the screw, attach the cable clamps with the cable held in the clamp. And did I mention getting a spider bite in the process, battling several wasps that wanted to build nests and trying not to roll on cactus plants that seem to be sprouting everywhere?

So once that was done I put the cable to my charge controller. That was a non urgent thing but as it was allied to what I'm doing anyway, it made sense to get on with it. Tomorrow I might move the battery box to the cockpit, thus freeing space in my storage area. As I was out of conduit, I went back to my old method of attaching cable. I taped it then secured it with silicone seal. By tomorrow the silicone seal will be dry.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Looking wheelie good

On the way to ICU today, I popped into Carolina International Trucks to look for my front mud flap. They found me a mud flap that was the wrong size and then located the right one on their catalogue. Sadly, it was in another branch. Undaunted, I bought the one they had intending to make it fit.

The patient in ICU was looking very much brighter and much more alert. Thus things are looking brighter on all fronts. Leaving the hospital I called in at Lowes (hiss, spit) and purchased a 3/8 inch wheel nut that I can use to secure the neutral cable onto the battery. Now there is absolutely no reason why my batteries should go flat. I can simply disconnect the cable. Though it's not as fancy as using a switch, it's more reliable and cheaper than buying a new switch.

Returning home, I dealt with more wasp nests under the bus. This time I sprayed with Raid as opposed to black paint. It might be abt and roach killer but it seems to nail wasps well enough. That allowed me to get into the wheel arch to measure. The bolt holes turned out to be 1/4 inch and as it so happened I had some 1/4 inch bolts and plenty washers. The nuts were harder o find and I'd all but given up on finding them when eventually they appeared.

The concept was simple enough - cut the mudguard to the right size and bolt it in place. Cutting a quarter inch thick reinforced mudguard however, took an angle grinder. As it was, I cut to width perfectly. Length I had to cut twice as I was too conservative with the first cut. The holes were then drilled after holding the mudguard in place and marking the sites with a drywall screw.

It took a couple of hours but the results are not bad. I have a mudguard and it is bolted into place. Mark one item off my list of things to do!
Also on my list of things to do are four essentials (after I go underneath tomorrow and finish clamping the cables instead of wussing out because of wasps). They are...

  • Finish fixing the wipers
  • Eliminate the short in the right 120v socket.
  • Check the kingpins
  • Lower the brake pedal about 2.5 inches.
After those there are the things I'd like to do which are non essentials....

  • Install a forced air intake
  • Install a water inlet
  • Move the battery for the fans to the cockpit.
  • Install another solar panel
I'll have to have a good clearout too. I have so many leftover screws, bolts, hinges etc that it beggars belief! I'll also have to retitle the bus as a motorhome once the essentials are out of the way.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Almost there!

Today was meant to be a day when a lot got done! As usual, little was achieved but for very different reasons. The holdup this spring break has been somebody going into ICU in the hospital. Not me, I hasten to add!

So, today I went under the bus, removed the old non functioning reversing horn, installed the new one but in a better location and completed wiring and attaching conduit. In the photograph it looks a jumble and there is a connector visible that has no wire going to it. That, oddly enough, is by design. I figured a spare cable might come in handy. I'm already thinking of re-siting the battery for the extraction fans to the front of the bus!
I have two conflicting ideas for the extraction fans. I can either power them from my 5AH lead acid battery and keep the battery at the front or leave it where it is or the second idea is to replace the lead acid battery with AA NiMh batteries. Since the charge controller is programmable, that might be a good solution. I'm waiting for my rechargeable AA NiMh batteries in my door lock to run down so I can test the low voltage level in order to set the low level on the charge controller. Once I've charged the batteries, I'll know what the full level is.

Meanwhile, my work under the bus was halted by the discovery of a hornet building a nest. I don't particularly want to be stung by a hornet or a wasp or any other insect for that matter. America has some rather vicious insects though fortunately nowhere near the variety Australia has. The hornet nest is visible in this photo. The mud spatter is due to having no front mud guard. That's another project!
A few days ago I bought a 10ah battery on eBay. It turns out sadly that it's just too big for my needs. My panels produce such puny amounts of power that it takes forever to charge the 10ah battery though it roars away for hours, powering my extraction fans. Still, that'll be handy for future expansion. I've been thinking of running an air intake, taking cooler outside air and blowing it inside with the fan powered by the sun.
Also, a few days ago, I encountered a strange new light in Harbor Freight. It's an LED worklight with an adjustable angle. Being magnetic, I can stick it pretty much anywhere. I was thinking for underbus work, initially. It's so much brighter than most of my LED lanterns that I'm now thinking of putting some kind of non scratch covering on the magnetic foot so it won't harm my paintwork and busing it for lighting.

The new idea for progress is once the right hand wiper is working, to get the underside steamed and greased by the real mechanics who will at the same time remove the hornet nest and will inspect the kingpins and lower my ridiculously high brake pedal by at least 2.5 inches. The accelerator could probably use work too since it takes a lot of travel to get it above 5mph.

At some point the bus must have been hit by lightning. I noticed an ionized smell in it a few days ago.  Today I found 4 blown fuses. I replaced them. Most things seem to work though I'm having to charge the batteries again. I suspected the kill switch was bad. I've  been hunting for other explanations but none seem to work. Of course, the battery box is close to the hornet nest. What fun! I'll have to go for the original method of battery isolation and simply remove the cable!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The babies have arrived

One baby was a whole week behind schedule due to it being sent by the somewhat useless DHL Smart Post which never really works. The other arrived before time, having been shipped via USPS. As I'm currently under the weather with some kind of bug or other, I'm unlikely to do anything with either item until at least tomorrow and more likely next weekend.

The temperature inside the bus is currently 91F so pretty sweaty actually. I opened a window briefly for a cool breeze then remembered the mosquitoes and closed it. Just before that I'd been talking to my dad over the phone and I'd mentioned a new idea for ventilation. I could put an air intake on the side of the bus and draw air up from a low level, pass it through a cheap Honda lawnmower filter and thus get some really good airflow going. This means more solar panels to power it but since I can get them relatively cheaply, that's not going to be too bad.

On the subject of solar panels, the other day I was reading about a Scottish island which was 90% powered by renewable energy with diesel backup generators. They had solar, wind and tidal energy systems. Interestingly, they found solar in winter barely gave them 10% of the rated output and in summer with 18 hours of sunshine, around 25% of the rated output. That's broadly in line with my experiences. I concluded solar panels were utter garbage if you believed the lies told by manufacturers about their rated power. 

One of my projects involved a wind turbine. As it is, the turbine generator that arrived is next to useless. Half of it - the important half - is made of plastic. It's really not worth my while even trying to build something around something so flimsy. I quietly abandoned that project. 
My reversing horn arrived yesterday. Today I tested it and it produces a lovely loud beeping noise. The old horn is located just behind the rear wheels which seems strange given that it's something needed at the back of the bus. This has a different mounting setup too. I can mount it pointing down. That means water splashing into it can drain out. I'll mount it close to the back bumper, add some more cable conduit and extend my cable. That should take care of the reversing horn problem!
The other thing that arrived was a 10ah battery. It's not a snug fit in my ammunition box so it'll need spacers but my sealed lead acid setup is now at 15ah. That should be more than sufficient to run all the fans I need and charge some USB devices. The plan is still to install that in the cockpit. First priority is to finish working underneath the bus. I still need a mud flap at the front on the left. I still need to add more cable clamps. I still need to install my reversing horn and now to extend the cable to it. I also need to rejiggers the wires from the solar charge controller so I can pass the positive through my available cable to the battery box.

The battery box will be pretty simple. Once I have installed the battery tie downs and spacers, I'll add a fuse for each battery plus a thermal fuse and I'll tape packets of bicarbonate of soda to the roof of the box in order to make any fires self extinguishing. Then I'll have two very simple power plugs which I'll have to solder. The power leads will be external which gives me many more options. I don't want to set out making stuff complicated!