All posts by admin-nh-brian

First Trip Report

I had a chance over the weekend to take the coach out on an overnight trip to Cameron, Texas.  The good news is that replacing my air filter and using a target speed of 65 mph yielded an increase in fuel economy to 7 mpg from 4.5 mpg.  That is a huge improvement and probably paid for the filter on the first trip.  Total round trip was roughly 270 miles and I put 38.13 gallons of diesel in.  The method used was to top it off before leaving and then return to the same station to top it off again when I returned.  The calculation is approximate because I forgot to document the mileage before leaving.

I also discovered that something is wrong with the shore power connection.  When I connected it to the power it tripped the breaker and I heard a buzz from inside the bus.  I suspect that something is trying to charge the battery bank in the bus and pulling too much current.  I was using a 30A to 50A adapter as the location I was at only had 30A power.  I opened the grey transfer switch box and observed significant fucker clustery (worse than cluster fuckery).  It appears to be an electromechanical 3 way transfer switch.  The coach can be powered by shore power, genset, and inverter/battery bank.

I did not have time to analyze the configuration in the field and will need to spend some time trying to figure out what is going on and how it is configured.  Then I can figure out how it should be configured.  One thing I did not like for sure was the electrical gear adjacent to the batteries with no venting.

Replacing roof vents

Last weekend I replaced the two van-air roof vents and the central roof vent.  The van-airs were installed in the kitchen and bathroom.  They were just 32+ years old and had disintegrated.  They did still work, but not well.

The good news is that the replacements were $45/ea on eBay.

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I used a ladder to get up on the roof and there are a couple of photos of what I was replacing.

The central vent was a strange / obsolete vent.  I replaced it with a Fantastic Vent with a thermostat and a rain sensor.  This required a small enlargement to the hole.  I was nervous about the enlargement because there was structural framing on one side.  I consulted the parts manual and realized it was okay to modify.  The “skeleton” section from here.

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I had to take the vent apart in order to trace it’s outline on the roof.

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It also involved taking the vent apart in order to trace it’s outline.  It’s sealed with a good heavy duty sealant, OSI Quad.  I believe this is a one part polyurethane rubber, but Henkel doesn’t say.  I know it’s the best stuff to use on Hardie Siding and it has a 25% stretch rating.  A bus is hardly hardie siding, but it is a tough thing to seal up.  I’m happy with the results and it did not leak when it rained recently.

I picked up the Fantastic vent on eBay as an open box return.  It was in perfect condition.  $300 vent obtained for $120 including shipping.  🙂

Licensed and Costed

On Friday I took the coach for inspection.  It went smoothly and I then was able to go to the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office.  Registration fees were $390.  Ouch!  But it is what it is in terms of costs.  The coach is now licensed.

I did opt to have them issue Amateur Radio Operator plates.  This gives me the joy of having the same license plate number on all 3 of my vehicles.  It took the tax office 30 minutes to figure out how to put the coach in due to it’s weight.

Never to be outdone, HCTRA our friendly toll road authority required an in-person visit and a few explanations to get an EZ Tag issued and all my vehicles updated.  Their website errored out when trying to assign the same license plate to multiple vehicles.  I’m a little afraid to go back into the portal now.  It’s good to have an EZTAG though because I can take the toll roads when I need to do so.  Houston traffic is especially irritating most of the time, so the toll roads are just one of the many tools used to deal with it.  They can be a huge timesaver if there is an accident on one of the freeways.

I also decided to start keeping a spreadsheet of my costs.  It was a little sombering.  The LED refit was about a $1500 project.  Not cheap, but that should be the last of it.  So far I’m at just under $11K including purchase price and excluding operating costs like fuel.  I don’t think it’s fair to track fuel or lodging as an ownership cost.  Repairs on the other hand are fair game, as is CoachNet, Insurance, Registration, etc.

I often say that if you should run like hell if you are worried about the fuel costs or ownership costs.  However, I’d like to be able to know if my grand experiment was financially stupid or not at the end of the day.

82, 162, 310, purple, black, white, open close

They read like the sequence for a code or a football play.  These are the critical wires involved in controlling the air solenoid under the stairs that opens and closes the coach door.  The coach is equipped with a really neat aircraft style door that swings open and shut at the press of a button.

82 and Purple go to the dash.  Purple is the power source and was set to work when the key was in.  I rewired it to always be on.  If someone has access to the button on the dash they are going to open the door anyway.

310 and 162 go to a button.  Black and white are an extension to serve the stairway button.  They hook into 310 and 162.

Interestingly, 162 was disconnected and labeled, WTF?  I had disconnected it while I was working on the lights.  I put it on it’s own circuit breaker with purple.

All the wires are now labeled and working.  At some point I may add a keyless entry to the motorhome.  They aren’t that expensive and it would be nice to have.  My only hesitation is making sure I have a backup way in if the keyless misbehaves.  The coach is something of a fortress when you get right down to it.  If you lock yourself out you have to pick a window to break…. 🙁

I should be ready for an inspection on Friday and license plates!

Cracking Eyeballs

I am waiting on some parts to arrive, so I decided to start working on the Morse Docking lights.  They are designed to have the entire eye-ball assembly replaced.  I managed to get it open, but wound up breaking the light before getting it out.

The light is a GE 4419 Marine floodlight, Par36, 100w with a 25hr service life.  This means it pulls around 8.5A running.  I want to replace it with an LED, but I’ll have to get this assembly apart.

The eyeball is press-fit together and the silver ring is what holds it together.  I managed to pry it apart.  The light itself sits in a rubber ring and that is held in by the silver ring which is pushed in behind it.  I have not quite figured out how to extract the ring yet.2016-03-28 18.35.39 2016-03-28 18.35.42 2016-03-28 18.35.45 2016-03-28 18.35.50

High stop lights

Here is an update from this weekend on the high-stop lights.  I’m nearly done with the bus lights and just waiting on a couple of 24v to 12v stepdown transformers to arrive.

 

Here is one of the fabricated mounting brackets, primed and painted.2016-03-27 15.24.24

Here are both of them with the lights mounted on them. 2016-03-27 15.30.51

Here they are with the wiring spliced.2016-03-27 15.46.20 2016-03-27 15.52.48

I am sealing them in with silicone caulk.  It’s simple and it excels at this purpose.

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After the install I wipe up the excess and it looks darn good.2016-03-27 16.06.31

Here is what I am replacing, a Hella light.2016-03-27 16.06.43

The inside is pretty worn out.

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This one had a busted bulb in it.

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The wiring is okay, but doesn’t look factory.  There is an interesting rubber seal that the light mounts to.  I had to cut it to get rid of it.2016-03-27 16.08.21

I always test the lights before sealing them in.2016-03-27 16.12.06

And here is another view showing the curb side completed.  Looks great and I shouldn’t have to mess with it for a while.2016-03-27 16.18.52

DeWalt Aluminum / Fiberglass Blades DW3755H

I had a devil of a time rounding the corners  on 1/4″ T6061 aluminum plate when I fabricated the rear light assemblies.  I decided not to do that again for the upper or high-stop plates.

I am making plates so that my LED surface mount lights have somewhere to mount to.  I am rounding the corners so that they fit into the fiberglass holes from the old incandescent lights.

I ordered the metal from OnlineMetals.com.  They were quick and it showed up cut exactly to the right dimension on both the lower and upper light plate orders.

I then drilled holes and drilled and tapped screw holes for the LED lights.

However, I needed to round the corners.  A CNC Mill would be ideal, but I don’t have one anymore.  You can see my old one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sae6_1ZaIPw

What I do have is a DeWalt MaxXR jigsaw like this one:

DEWALT DCS331B 20-Volt MAX Li-Ion Jig Saw

Regular metal blades gum up in aluminum and then they don’t cut worth a damn.  So I did some research and found that DeWalt makes some aluminum and fiberglass blades that are supposed to go through metal like butter.

DEWALT DW3755H 4-Inch 8 TPI Aluminum/Fiberglass Cut HCS T-Shank Jig Saw Blade (5-Pack)

I ordered a set on Friday and they were delivered Sunday via the US Postal Service.  Prime is really handy.

They are not quite like going through butter, but they are definitely an improvement over standard metal blades that are designed for steel.

Headlights return…. finally!

I finally got the headlights mounted, installed, and wired.  On the downside, I apparently forgot to take pictures Friday evening.  I’m not entirely happy with the way they are mounted.  The Neoplan / Auwarter fiberglass front trim is angled.  I’m actually impressed that the original headlights worked as well as they did.  The wiring harnesses were a mess.

I ordered some nylon spacers from BoltDepot to try and straighten out my Nissan Pathfinder headlight buckets.  Headlight buckets are the metal assemblies that the headlight itself mounts in.  They contain the adjusters and fasten to the body of the vehicle.  I ordered a pair of them on eBay for $22 including free shipping.  I guess they are frequently replaced on eBay.  The problem I have right now is that they are toed out too much.

I chose to keep the square look, although it would have been much easier to purchase some Dietz 7 inch black headlight buckets like these and then the 7″ truck-lite LED’s like these for Jeep’s.

Truck-lite’s throw off a ton of even, well balanced light.  Amazon has a good listing for them here:
Truck-Lite (27270C) Headlamp

 

The one I actually used is this one:
Truck-Lite (27450C) Headlamp

 

Let their be light (up top)

One of the nice things about eBay and the US Postal Service is that things show up pretty quick.  I received the marker lights I ordered Sunday today, Wednesday.  I had some time after work and before it got too late, so I took advantage of it to get the lights installed in the front and mid section upper areas.  For the most part it went smoothly and all of the lights are bright and working great.

This first picture is the rear marker LED’s.  The brake lights are about 5x this bright when they fire off.  It’s looking really good back there.2016-03-23 21.06.19

This is a sideview of the driver’s side showing the upper front, mid, and rear markers along with the midship side marker.  The additional side markers are not hooked up right now.2016-03-23 21.04.06

Here is the curb side, sorry it’s a little blurry.2016-03-23 21.03.44

And here is the front of the coach.  There are 5 lights across and two Beehive markers.  One of the less pleasant things I found up there were some hornet/wasp nests in the space where the windshield wiper arms live.  I made a note to myself to watch out for angriness® when the weather improves and the coach sits for any length of time.

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I need to do the 3 rear red markers and the high stop/marker lights.  The evolution of middle stop/marker lights is pretty interesting.  As I understand it they tested several approaches in the US before settling on the middle light that is now somewhat standard on passenger vehicles.  At any rate, they don’t do any harm and they increase the visibility for vehicles following me so I am going to keep them and upgrade them to LED’s.  I had to order aluminum plates and those should be in tomorrow via UPS.

As for the lights themselves, I had ordered some Maxxima mini markers and when they came in I concluded they were entirely too small for a retrofit project.  They will probably be good for something, just not this project.  I wound up ordering some Optronix LED’s which were $6/ea including free shipping.  It’s amazing how inexpensive these lights are getting.  I ended up using a pair of them for my upper mid markers because I thought they would put off a decent amount of light.  I was right and it saved me some money in the process.

I will use the red mini markers as rear side markers to upgrade the lighting to current regulations.  This is not required, but it makes good sense.  I may recycle the Amber mini reflectors somewhere along the side as well.

LED light bulbs for the cab light

Among my many projects, the cab light had 24v bulbs in it.  That was fine, but it also shares it’s circuit with the marker lights.  I’ll eventually figure out why, but now that the circuit has been converted to 12v it makes the bulbs pretty dim.

I carefully pried the cover off of the fixture and installed a pair of 12v LED bulbs that I had bought for the coach.  I originally was going to install them in my road lights.  However, after finding abundant corrosion there I decided to rework all of the lights and embarked on a major project.

They are not quite as bright as the 28v bulbs, but they are plenty bright for finding something or reading a map.  I expect most maps to be on my iPad anyway.

One thing I did not do was mess with the wiring.  I don’t like that the cab light only works when the marker lights are on.  I’m okay with it being on the run circuit, but I want the ability to turn it on independently as long as the key is in.