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July Update

Hi folks, just a quick update that all is well.  I’ve been focused on my house and letting summer come and go.  I’m planning on going camping in September so I’ll be working on some minor things here in the next few weeks.  I’ll post more when I start working on it again.

WiFi solution

There are a bunch of articles on the web for how to do WiFi while camping.  I’ve come up with my own solution that works great and costs around $100.  Fair warning it does require some technical know-how to set it up.

Ubiquiti makes some great WiFi gear that you can get on Amazon.

I use their AirGateway Pro to create a local 2.4 WiFi access point for my the devices in my coach and around it.  This device has far exceeded my expectations and is pretty easy to configure if you understand networking.

I couple that with a NanoStation Loco.  This is a directional amplified antenna with a built in access client all powered by POE.  This device can sign in to another WiFi Network and share it with the Airstation.  It comes with a POE injector that will power the AirStation and the Nano Loco.

The only drawback is mounting it, but they make a suction cup window mount for the Nano Station.  It’s a little clunky and takes some tinkering to get it right…. but it does work.

The key to this is configuring your IP addresses.  It helps to map it out on paper.  It’s well beyond the scope of a post on my blog to teach networking for nested networks.  It is important to pick an address range that the host campground or other wifi source will not be using.

As an example, I might set the NanoLoco to use an internal IP of 10.90.200.254

I would set the AirGateway to use a WAN/External IP of 10.90.200.253

and an internal IP of 10.90.201.254.

I would then set a DHCP Range of 10.90.201.1-10.90.201.200.  This leaves 201 through 253 for “static” devices and is more than plenty for a motorcoach.

I’d set an appropriate netmask.

You need to configure the NanoLoco first, and then the AirGateway behind it.  When completed you should be able to access the NanoLoco while connected via physical wire or wifi to the AirGateway.

It is necessary to login to the NanoLoco to pick the wifi network you want to connect or bridge to and provide any wifi password etc.

The benefit to doing this is that my devices are behind my firewall (AirGateway) and I don’t have to mess with new IP’s and logins for my iPad, iPhone, computer, etc in my coach.  The Nano Loco will “pull in” a otherwise weak signal and the AirGateway is strong enough to pick up anywhere in the coach or around the coach.  The net result is reliable WiFi.

I might have Pegasus #1

I knew my coach was old when I bought it…. and unique.  I am beginning to think I own Pegasus #1.  Here’s why:

  • Body is 1984
  • equipped with custom logo’d gauges in load center.  They have the Pegasus logo printed on them from the factory in the same ink and finish.  They are date stamped on the back Jan 1985.
  • Custom Logo’d VDO running gauges as well.  This is typically done by the factory.  It’s possible to do after market, but it requires disassembly and reassembly and recalibration… which often costs more than the gauge.
  • It appears to have been wired for a hot tub at one point.  There is a breaker labeled this, but behind the breaker there is some hand written wire markers that are the same style as the rest of the wire labeling.  I’m thinking it was something portable/inflatable that tethered to a bay.  No trace of it these days.

The hot tub is interesting…. I thought it was a recycled panel/joke initially… but I think it was real.

There is also a circuit for an ice maker and liquor dispenser…. No sign of either device today.  There are also circuits for front, center, and rear air as well as front, center, and rear roof air.  3 AC’s is really plush…. 6 would be crazy.  My guess is that the coach was refit with roof airs at some point.  They are all Coleman roof air units. They all work well.

Pandora’s transfer switch aka electrical flucker custery

Ah yes, flucker clustery….a  level beyond cluster fuckery!  So here are some pictures of Pandora’s transfer switch.

First the lovely electrical bay.  Chafe violations, explosion hazard, unsecured batteries, improperly secured wires, no battery disconnect, no fusible links, poor use of storage.  So much opportunity!  So charging batteries gas off hydrogen gas…. and should never be near electrical relays (gray box) because they spark when they open and close.  They should also be vented so that gas cannot build up inside the enclosure.  Hydrogen is explosive!

IMG_2947

In the gray box (upper right) is a cluster fuck of a DIY 3 way transfer switch that should automagically choose shorepower, generator, or inverter.  No fucking telling if it ever worked right.  Uses Grainger / Dayton automagic delay controllers.  Loose wires, nothing labeled, probably improperly sized, some hack job relays.  A real mess.  Genset did work, but something doesn’t work hardcore when it’s connected to shore power.

IMG_2942

Close ups
IMG_2944 IMG_2943

there is a nice 50 pound battery charger behind the panel.  I think the water tank is under that.. . or at least one of them.  Lots of improperly secured wire and a whole bunch of it coiled up.  No idea what it does.

 

A nice Vanner 50Amp 24 to 12v voltage converter.  I can get a modern one for $50 these days.  This one isn’t regulated, it just cuts voltage in half.  There is a second one back by the coach batteries.IMG_2946

More quality wiring

IMG_2945

And the genset is a 50A generator, protected by a 100A breaker…… fire hazard much?

IMG_2939

Lots to do here in reworking the electrical.

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.

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

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