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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  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:

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.

2016-03-23 21.03.37

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.

Progress on wiring and a hole in the wire

This morning I resumed work on the rear lights.  I’ve been working for a few days now on tracing what wire does what back there.  The wires have labels, but they have been painted and I don’t have a schematic.  So everything is hunt and find.2016-03-19 14.35.21 2016-03-15 16.49.43

Here I’m using a multi-meter and some alligator clips to check wires.2016-03-19 12.42.11

I finally gave up and concluded that the original wiring harness had some faulted wires.  I cut the entire harness out and it made very short work out of identifying the remaining wires and labeling them.  I’ll have to build some sub-harnesses to reach my new assemblies, but that won’t take as long.2016-03-19 14.35.13

Somewhere in the picture below is a broken wire… maybe more than one.  I got frustrated and cut them out.

2016-03-19 14.34.05

The brake light and reverse light need to stay 24v.  So that requires stepping them down at the “tailgate.”  I ordered a couple of small step-down transformers on AliExpress.  They promise to be waterproof and capable of 5A.  5A is a tremendous amount of current and I’m only going to push maybe 1A through them, so this should work just fine.  You can view the listing here.  Unfortunately, Alibaba thinks they are being clever by stopping you from copying the images…. but what they are really doing is hurting the ability of bloggers like me to reference them.  At any rate they are fully potted step down voltage regulators.  They should be just fine for this application and I ordered and extra one just in case.


Title arrives, after 7 weeks

This past weekend I was excited to find the clear Texas Vehicle Title in the mail.  They did make a minor mistake and listed the auctioneer as the previous owner.  I don’t really care, it’s legally mine now and not relevant if the auctioneer or previous owner is listed on the title.  It took forever to come in the mail and I was beginning to wonder where it was.

Next I need to finish the lights so I can get it inspected and pay for license plates.

Time for new turn signals

So this is what the OEM setup looks like.  E-code European Bosch headlight/foglight combo with unobtanium glass lens.  Conveniently cracked by the free rocks available on our fine roads.  Cracked before my time I might add.  Coupled with a lovely Hella European turn signal.  While parts are slightly more available, they have to be scrounged on eBay and shipping is expensive.  The headlights are a nice H4 series bulb and I have to say they are way brighter than anything I’ve ever driven before.  I thought they were setup for high beams, but they are actually on low beams.2016-03-02 18.03.42

This is what I’m installing:

2016-03-02 18.14.40

Maxxima LED lights that I should never have to touch again.  The old lights are dual units with a marker and turn signal.  The new units are combos.

Here are some photos illustrating the fun:

2016-03-02 18.14.58

With the anti-tamper caps installed2016-03-02 18.14.35

Closeup with the light installed.2016-03-02 18.12.29

The old light which has clearly seen better days.2016-03-02 18.11.40

The lens which is cracked/epoxied and a hack probably.

I still need to get things wired up, but the signals are at least physically mounted.  Feels like I’m making progress finally.

Tie-Rod Mystery

So, my bus has these nifty self-levitating luggage doors.  Well, they would be nifty if they didn’t have some worn out hardware.  These ball joints are on the doors.  I have 24 of these and 12 larger cousins installed.  These are 16mm balls, which I can get sockets for $4/ea.

Sad thing is that the nylon “cup” is all that is bad.  It’s probably not nylon, it’s a semi-flexible translucent rubber.

I have half a mind to try and print the damn things on my 3-d printer when I finally get it later this week.  Hmm, let’s see….. assuming that all the sockets are the same price that is $144 worth of plastic bits….. probably worthwhile.  They are relatively simple as plastic bits go, so it shouldn’t take too much trial and error to figure out the exact size.

I may just do that.

In the meanwhile, does anyone know what brand these are?2016-01-19 19.10.11 2016-01-19 19.09.50 2016-01-19 19.09.34 2016-01-19 19.09.29 2016-01-19 19.09.26

A replacement candidate arrived yesterday in the mail….

2016-01-19 18.49.48