Friday, August 2, 2013

Drain rust progress

I've got my galley out and ground away the rust. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared, and I only lost a centimeter or so around the original drain hole:

I made a patch, and drilled out a hole for the drain fitting. Here it is resting in place:

Something else I discovered: I'm not the first to work in this area of the van. There were small spots of black paint in this area of the floor, and they covered some surface rust. My guess is, someone discovered the rust, but not the source of it, and rather than cleaning it properly, they just painted over it with rust treatment. You can see the discoloration from the surface rust in the photos above.

Anyway, there's no sense in fixing one thing while leaving the rust undone, so I sanded and painted some other rust spots in the area with rust preventer, primed, and repainted the floor. Here's the floor, cleaned of all rust:

There's still some discoloration you can see, but these are stains, not rust, as far as I can tell. Then I treated all the bare metal with rust treatment. I didn't sand the entire floor to get a uniformly smooth surface, because this isn't visible: my aim is to prevent the spread of rust and to ensure body integrity. I did pay at least some attention to aesthetics, though, by painting it all the stock color so it wouldn't look too awful if somebody else came a long to work on it.

I epoxied the patch in place with JB Weld. Because the surface of the van isn't flush, and because I have a pretty small hole to pass a clamp through, I wasn't able to get a perfectly flush fit all the way around the patch. Frankly, maybe my patch is bigger than it needs to be, but I figure it does no harm. I did make sure the patch mates flush with the floor around the hole, though. The underside of the van was also slightly non-uniform, because of the two metal surfaces. I didn't want this to prevent a good flush mounting of the drain fitting, so I filled that with Bondo and sanded it smooth. Finally, I treated the underside with a rubber undercoating.

Here's the patched floor with the drain fitting in place:

Finally, the grand reveal: the cabinet is mounted back in place, with a new drain hose clamped to the fitting.

Time for a beer.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The projects, they are a-growin'

The missus and I have been somewhat absent from the Vanagon scene, due to changing abodes, and welcoming a new little one into our lives. So, since we're not taking Kurt around anywhere lately, I decided to tackle a longer-term project: the fridge. You know, the it's-hard-to-light, it-doesn't-get-very-cold variety.

But that's a story for a different day. It's just the lead-in. When I pulled the fridge, I noticed something curious: the bottom clamp for the sink drain hose was rusted out.

The top isn't.  You can also see some rust in the floor in that area. But where's all that water coming from? Here's what I found when I pulled the drain hose:

Yikes! Every time we ran the sink, we'd be putting more water on the floor.

Unlike my previous posts, I'm not going to post the happy ending with this one: I've just gotten started pulling out the entire galley so I can get access to the floor to clean it out.

So, current Vanagon projects include the door panel restoration I haven't finished, the fridge, and now the floor. At this rate, I hope to be done by, I dunno, next summer. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Something not electrical

One project that's straightforward enough is to swap the stock wheels to something bigger. On our maiden voyage, cross winds scared the bejeezus out of me, and I wanted to improve the lateral stability. Mission accomplished, with my boy driving like a boss:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Time to fix the stereo

Greetings gentle readers. It's been some time. And that means we've been out enjoying Kurt, instead of spending quite so much time fixing him. And that's a good thing. Here's our Thanksgiving:

All the same, there's still a long list of things to fix. One is the stereo. Once, when I was driving to work on a rainy fall day, the stereo quit. The head unit still had power, but nothing from the speakers. Nada, kaput. This  meant a short somewhere in the speaker wires.

I started with the wiring with the head unit. Here's how it looked when I started:

Again, those blasted twist connectors everywhere. I counted nine of the damned things. When I tugged on the speaker wire in the driver-side door, the driver door speakers dropped sound completely, even though I'd redone their wiring too. (No pix of that job, sorry. I need to do the passenger door too, and I'll show you what a mess it was.) So, I decided to solder all of these, instead of leaving all these twist connectors in place.

Preparing to tin two wires, prior to splicing them:

And the head unit wiring, upon completion:

I could probably tidy more, e.g. replacing those crimp-on splices with soldered ones, and zip-tying the wires a bit more, but I'll take it. And tugging on the door wires no longer leads to fade-outs.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Domestic tranquility

This past week, I made some adjustments to Kurt to keep the missus happy.

First, a table lift extension. $2 in parts, half an hour in labor. Kurt's table in normal travel position:

Again, in new lifted position:

The missus showing how easy it is to access the cabinets with the table lifted.

Item #2 is a fix to one of the Previous Owner's modifications to Kurt. He installed two additional pumps besides the stock sink pump: one, to add a shower head in the back of the van. Cute idea, and he plumbed it relatively well, sealing the additional tubing and wiring with silicon. Trouble is, it isn't working. He says it did, but who knows how recently. He also added a hand-held, battery operated pump. Something like a powered squirt gun. To install this, he simply drilled a hole in the top of the water tank. You can see the hole in this photo, the dark hole near the hose intakes:

The trouble is filling the water tank. The PO used to fill the tank by opening the screw-top lid and feeding a hose through the window, because he never had the key to the fill hose door. I replaced the stock Delta Industries hookup boxes with ones from GoWesty, partly because I like the idea of a quick connect on the hose. The way this is supposed to work is, once the tank fills, water will flow out the point of lowest pressure, which should be the vent hose, aka outside the van.
But with this open hole in the top of the tank, water just flows all over the top of the tank, running all over the floor of the van and who knows what else on its way out. (Yes, I found this out the hard way.) So I needed to stop up that hole.
My buddy Steve suggested a genius modification: plastic welding. I cut a plug out of an old "soft" Nalgene bottle I had lying around, and blasted it and the tank with a heat gun until the plug sucked itself into place and formed a weld. Here's how it looks now:

Problem solved.

One final mod: the missus and I sleep in the top bunk and leave our toddler in a tent in the bottom. But at 6' tall, I press up against the bottom of the tent, and after just a few uses, I poked a hole in it, too. So again I leaned on my buddy Steve, to build a pillow board to slot in the hole beyond where the bed folds out. I bought a piece of 2' x 4' 3/4" plywood, and cut out a width of about 11 1/2" to fit the space. We glued a piece of 2" high-density foam onto it, and upholstered it with a staple gun. Here it is installed:

It stores in the spot below the bed underneath the pop top, and lets me lie flat without Bogarting the missus's space anymore.

Tips for upholstering:
This is a two-person job. Spray glue helps keep the foam in place, but be careful it isn't keeping you from pulling the fabric tight as you're stapling it. Start in the middle rather than at the corners, as the folds you make in the corners will pull in any remaining slack. If you start at the corners, you'll have unwanted slack in the middle you'll never be able to get rid of.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Redoing the dash wiring

When I got the van, the prior owner told me the dash lights didn't work. I asked if whether they'd faded out or died suddenly, and he said they'd just died suddenly. So I figured there was a fuse that was blown, and the Bentley manual told me there was a fuse involved in the dash lights. But I sure couldn't find it. It wasn't mentioned in the fuse panel's list of fuses, either. So for one of my projects, I decided to replace the lamps in the dash with LEDs. This was unlikely to help, but I figured it couldn't hurt. Replacing them required pulling out the instrument cluster, which is actually pretty straightforward. When it was off, I spotted a fuse hiding on top of the fuse block that isn't mentioned in the cover. I replaced this, and all of a sudden, most of my dash lights were working. Success!

Except I wasn't done yet. When we took Kurt out for his second trip last weekend, I was futzing with the heater and the dash lights flickered off. And, about a month after we got the van, I'd been trying to figure out an unrelated problem when I spotted loose wires hiding behind the ventilation controls. Here's what the wiring looked like behind that. Note there are three dangling, stripped wires in view, and a fourth out of view.

Two of these are ground, so not dangerous, but silly. The last, the blue/grey wire with electrical tape covering it, is switched with the dash lights. When the dash lights are on, this showed +9V. The end was stripped, so turning on the dash lights could mean a short, followed by a blown fuse. And see the silly twist connectors? The van's full of these wherever the prior owner did work. I don't like 'em because of their tendency to fail with time, at least if they move around.

Another thing that was bugging me was the cigarette lighter. It was dangling half out of the dash, and didn't work. Here's what the wiring looked like when I tugged at it:

I swear I didn't enhance the ugliness for effect, this is just how it looked. Yep, two more twist connectors, and a cut wire whose use I didn't immediately guess. The brown (ground) wire coming out of the twist connector was disconnected. One side of the red (12V) wires went to the glove box light, and the other side was the source. Or, it should have been. But according to the ohm meter, it and the ground were one and the same. Glad it wasn't working! At least the prior owner did one thing right:

He had an inline fuse in the source. Good thing! I wonder how many of these he blew trying to figure out his short? (Again, I note the repeated use of twist connectors.)

So I rewired the source for the stereo and the cigarette lighter, and replaced the lighter. The new lighter came with a light that switched on with the dash lights. Ah hah! Here's the reason for the cut blue/grey wire both in the old lighter and hidden behind the ventilation controls. Here's my new cigarette lighter and glove box light wiring, before I mounted them into the dash, with apologies for the terrible exposure:

I kept an inline fuse, because the source circuit for the cigarette lighter is shared with the stereo, and with luck causing a short across the 12V receptacle would blow this fuse before damaging the stereo. (It has its own fuse, too, but I decided to play it extra safe here.) I went with a blade fuse just because I happened to have extras of those. I used a tap splice to provide 12V to the glove box light, figuring it'd serve as a canary to tell me if the fuse was blown.

Finally, here's the dash all put back together:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Taming electrical beasties, part 2

So last time, I mentioned that the previous owner wasn't the only one capable of electrical incompetence. Here's what I did. I'd been hoping to take Kurt up for his second trip Labor Day weekend, and I was racing to finish up the electrical rework before then. That included pulling the old battery, which had gotten drained, in one insomniac session. I also installed a toggle switch from GoWesty. This handy little switch allows me to have the radio either powered on only when the key is in the ignition, or all the time. Finally, I dropped in the new battery.

We packed up the van the Saturday before Labor Day, and made plans to leave early the following morning. I also checked out the sink, and it wasn't working very well, even though the new battery was working fine. So I pulled the faucet off to check out the connection. The contacts looked corroded, but there was no obvious fault. When I tried to put it back together, I broke the crimp-on connector. This was about 8pm on Saturday night, and we were leaving the next morning. Good job, dude: from a flaky sink, I now had a broken one.

Still, we went ahead with our plans, and got rolling about 3 Sunday morning. As we were rolling out, I heard some quiet little popping noises underneath me. Uh-oh. They only happened when I passed a bump in the road or when I was turning, but I noticed that they were accompanied with a flicker of my battery light. Ok, definitely electrical. Time to abort the trip.

Remember how I yanked the battery out during one insomniac night? Well, I had to unmount a solenoid that's part of the aux battery charging circuit to get the battery out. A screw got away from me then, and I forgot about it. So the alternator side of the solenoid was rotating, and making contact with that loose screw, causing a near short.

So, electrical incompetence isn't limited to the prior owner: I broke the sink, and had a very dangerous potential short, due to my own incompetence.

On the plus side, this gave me time to fix the sink before our next trip.