Monday, November 23, 2009

Radiator mounting planned

I was fortunate to get a couple of hours on Sunday with limited distraction, so I rolled under the bus between showers and I believe i have a plan for mounting the radiator under the bus. I ran out to Lowes, got a bunch of hardware, and started what I believe to be the final run on the brackets before installing this beast. Most of today's post will deal with that. I have no further news about Tom or Marianne. My wife will be traveling to visit with them in a few weeks, so she'll dig up what's really going on when she's there.

One of my lingering concerns about mounting a radidator under the bus is that it will be subjected to road debris abuse. Beyond just simple plastic bags, and gravel, there can be large obstacles in the road. I've seen mattresses, sheet rock, lumber, a ladder, etc, all in the last year on the Oregon highways. Add to that the ice and snow that we got last winter, where my Jetta was getting high-centered by the mid-road snow pack, and I think the concerns are justifiable. I have looked at many designs by different people, and they seem to fall into 2 categories: avoidance and strength.

The under-mount radiator designs that follow this pattern are purposely placed as flat as possible, and as close to the floor of the bus as possible. These achieve some degree of safety because the debris can't really get to them. The downside of this design is that the air can't get there naturally either so any cooling is done exclusively by fans. This puts considerable pressure on the system working correctly, leaving little margin for error for a failed fan. Some kind of fan monitoring should be used to indicate when the fans are on / off at the dashboard so the driver can know when the fan(s) has failed.

The under-mount radiator designs that follow this pattern are angled to catch the air, and have a cage of sorts around the radiator. This cage deflects debris from getting to the radiator, in theory. I would think that there is the possibility of high-centering or having the entire thing ripped off by passing debris, if the debris is something like a tree stump or some other non-movable object. These do have the benefit of naturally grabbing some air on its way by, so they can operate with some success if a fan(s) fails.

This is the pattern that I'm going to try. It is a take on the strength pattern, but allows for travel within the mounting so that the radiator mount can partially absorb, and partially avoid debris. This pattern should allow for natural air passage and the use of fans like the "strength" pattern, but with the ability to move up and down if a tree stump or other immovable object is traversed.

First, I made the bracket relatively simply - it is just a simple "c" wrapping each of the 4 mount points on the radiator. These "c" wrappers then tied into one of 3 brackets - one for the front and 1 for each of the 2 rear. The front is a basic square tube the should assist in the strength of the front bracket while partially obstructing the temperature sensor from direct contact by flying debris. I covered this in previous postings.

To these brackets, I have attached eye-hooks. These eye hooks will connect, through chain, to eye-hooks that are connected to the cross-members under the belly of the bus (the point at the cross-member will be re-enforced with some extra steel). This chain will add the flexibility to move. To prevent the radiator from bouncing up into the floor of the bus, I will add a rubber travel-stop (think snubber from the front end). I will be able to vary the depth of the angle of the front end by adding or removing chain links. I have selected chain and single-links that can handle up to 450 pounds. Anything less seemed too thin and anything more seemed excessive.

Across the front bracket, I will attach a larger round pipe (like a 16" stretch of fencepost). This will serve as a bumper that will absorb the initial contact with the immovable object and cause the front lip to bounce up - at least that's the theory. Behind the post, I'll put in a security screen style grid to prevent larger rocks from getting past and into the radiator area.

Last, surrounding the floating radiator, I will put a small cowling / shroud. This will help guide the air to the radiator and keep the rad-heated air from recirculating when at a dead stop. This shroud won't be more than a half-dozen inches tall. If it were much taller, it would prevent the movement that the chain is allowing. If I can figure out a clever way, I'll curve the shroud so it rounds off at the top. This would allow the shroud to be taller. Regardless, it needs to be removable so I can get to the chain for maintenance.

That's it for today. I was able to get started on the eye-hooks, but I ran out of bolt-nuts, and daylight. I need to stop at the hardward store for lock washers and nuts. I doubt I'll have much more time before Thanksgiving to work on Hapy. I may not get any time on him for another week, actually, so, I won't post until after the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading.

top - the rear brackets with the eye-hooks attached. The long eye-hooks will go into the thick cross member in front of the transaxle
bottom - the front bracket with the long eye-hooks attached. These will be connected via a chain to one of the shorter cross members (which will be re-enforced / backed with some steel at the mount point)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

rad brackets continue

There's not much to add this time. I didn't get much time on the project these last few days, but I was able ot get a little bit further on the radiator bracket. I also have an update on my son's H1N1.

Radiator Bracket I finished the last of the 4 separate brackets. It went together like its twin on the front. After that, I put a bit of square-tubing across the front. After taking some measurements, and messing around with Google Sketchup, I have a working model of the underside of the bus. From this, I can conclude that I will have about 5-1/2" above the frame rail to play with. If I don't want more than 5 inches of drop on the front end, that gives less than 9 inches (after removing the thickness of the radiator) of possible exposure to air flow. I'll be getting under the bus this weekend, time and weather permitting. I hope to first figure out what to mount the front end to. Then, I'll start considering how I'll do that. I have a few ideas....

Front End Tie-In Ideas
First, there's the obvious bar across the beams and a couple of vertical-ish bars coming from the front of the radiator up to that cross-bar. Figure I tie-in some kind of rubber bit to absorb the vibration and torque-action on the body.
Second, I could put shorter vertical-ish bars up from the rad and connect to a cross bar (or eye-loops) with a short stretch of cable. This would make the pitch variable, so I could experiment a little.

Where Go Fans?
I could put fans under the radiator in a pull configuration. This seems to be the common thinking for best cooling, but wouldn't any water that passes through the radiator potentially get into the motor? I'm thinking that any time the fans would be in that condition, they would probably be turning on with some regularity, but its still something to think about.
Maybe the fans go on top in a push configuration. Then, any road debris could bounce up and damage a fan. Of course, if the fans weren't there, that debris would have damaged the radiator, so there will have to be some kind of security screening to protect the top of the radiator anyway.

Shroud Cowl
The picture that I linked in an earlier posting didn't have any shrouding at all. I don't know where his bus lives, so maybe it doesn't get very hot. I think I want at least some cowling on the sides and rear to prevent rad-heated air to re-flow through. In both of the design options above there would be a vertical-ish riser at the front on both corners. I'd need something at the rear to tie into. I'll have to give that some thought. Maybe it would just be a matter of careful cutting and I could re-use the shroud mount point that I'm using for the brackets.

Cedar's H1N1
Well, Cedar finished his battle with the flu and was back at school today. He came bounding downstairs all dressed and ready to roll after over-sleeping for a school day. He made it to school only 30 minutes after the late bell. Thanks for your words of concern. We have no updates on Marianne or Tom. I'll post as we learn what's going on.

top - front rad bracket before attaching to radiator. That's a 12" ruler for perspective.
top middle - view along bracket from water sensor end of radiator.
bottom middle - bracket at water temp sensor. Note the sensor maintenance is not affected.
bottom - full view of radiator with front and rear brackets attached.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

small progress is better than none

As I look through the last year of postings, I seem to say something about not getting much done an awful lot. It makes me think that I have a hard time moving from "goal oriented" to "process oriented". I really do believe this project is all about the learning and the doing, and that the driving the bus part is just the dessert. At least, that's how I think about it when I'm actually doing something on it. When I haven't touched it in a week, I focus on the "I haven't done anything since...". I guess you can take the goal away as long as you're still in the process. Today's posting covers some small progress, a little planning, a Busaru update and a personal note. No pictures, but I'm having issues with my new phone.

Small Progress
I did manage to get the final bracket completed for the front of the radiator. I still have to cut the square tubing, and attach it to the bracket. Then, I'll be rolling back under the bus (please, no rain) to think about how I'll tie it into the bus. Like I said in a previous post, it should be easy to bolt in the rear end. The front end, however, doesn't have an obvious mount point. I'm hopeful a solution will come to me when I'm lying on my back under the bus.

A little planning
While I'm under the bus looking for a mount point, I need to think about the routing of coolant lines. I need to run lines from the engine bay to the radiator, and from the engine bay past the radiator to the front beam - where the cabin heater will be. Last, there's the thought of getting an air line from under the rear seat up to the cabin heater for recirculation. Now, I don't plan to put anything like that in now, but I don't want to design without that in mind. Otherwise, I may not be able to get air from there. Considering that is one of the coldest places in a VW Bus (yes, there's a story here), I'd like very much to make that my "cold air return".

The Busaru was sold, so if you were thinking about it, you're too late. Too bad for me, the buyer also took the winter tires and the diesel heater :( I'm glad the former owner was able to get his old project to someone that would finish it out, though. Dave put a lot of time and effort into that bus. I sincerely hope he is able to work through his difficulties and find another project soon.

On a personal note
We learned this week that my wife's brother Tom has cancer. We don't know what kind, or what his treatment options are, but we appreciate your positive thoughts for him. Just a few days before that, we had learned that my wife's mother Marianne has a lump in her lung and that my wife's estranged father had passed away. Meanwhile, her neice Becky gave birth to her first boy (she has a young girl). Through all that, my wife has managed to keep her class schedule, and everything else much more together than most would have. It has really been too much to process for all of us, so I don't have a nice pearl to tie it all together with yet. It will be a few days before we know more about either Tom's or Marianne's condition or treatment options.
Update: I just learned that my younger son, Cedar, has contracted H1N1. When it rains it pours.

That's about all I have today. I should have some time early this week to get that cross bar on the radiator. Whether I have a dry opportunity with ample lighting is another question. Maybe I'll find that pearl along the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

bracketing the radiator

This past Sunday, after giving the garage a quick-cleaning, I started working on the brackets for the radiator. I've spent some time researching hoses, so I'll put some of that output up here. Last, Hal is starting up his own 'water-cooled engine into a bus' project. I'll hit some of the high notes on that plan.

Radiator Brackets
I looked at the Jetta radiator that I plan to use, and decided that the best plan of attack was to use the rubber-ish holes that originally held the fan shroud in place. On this particular radiator, the shroud mounting holes are on both sides of the radiator, so I was able to fabricate "C" shaped brackets using angle braces from Ace Hardware and some flat-bar stock I have lying around.

I rolled under the bus at a point when the pouring rain slowed to a sprinkle, and took a quick survey. I should be able to attach the rear end of the radiator to the cross beam just in front of the transaxle. So, I riveted some 1/8" rivets through the angle braces and into 1/8" holed drilled into the flat-bar. I made sure I cut the flat-bar long enough to rise above the radiator and the water inlet/outlet. I haven't decided how the coolant will integrate, but I don't want my cutting the bar too short to factor into it. I should be able to bore a hole in the bar and in the beam for a thick bolt. Then, I moved to the front-end of the radiator.

The front end will be facing the on-coming air, so the brackets need to be a little different. I cut the flat-bar much shorter (3-1/2" long) and flipped the top angle brace to reduce the air interference. I had to cut a bit off the angle brace to make it fit, but the result was a small "c" shape before riveting the flat-bar. My plan is to weld / rivet some square-bar across the top of the front end of the radiator and then tie in uprights at the sides. This should provide a strong attachment point for a deflector as well as maximize the available air-flow. I should also note that the square-bar should help protect the temperature sensor from debris. The placement of this sensor definitely influenced this design.

I still have another front bracket to fabricate and I have to think through how the front end of the radiator will physically attach to the bus. Hopefully, I'll get a break in the rain when I get to that point.

Hose Research
I've spent a great deal of time trying to find a reasonably priced solution for getting the coolant from the engine to the radiator and back again. Between Goodyear, Ryder Trucks, and McMaster-Carr, I couldn't find a good source. Hal found this hose at Gates, and I think we may have a winner, if I can figure out a way of buying it retail for a reasonable price. Once we get the radiator in place, we'll know how much we need, and then I'll start peppering them with emails for product.

Hal's Waterleaker
Speaking of Hal, he's starting up his own water leaking engine into a bus project. He acquired a 1.8L gas-burner for nearly scrap-metal prices. He's still going through the engine looking for badness, but he's been able to replace most of the issues very easily. He chose a 2000 Astro Van radiator, and that may become a problem with the inlet/outlet sizing, but otherwise, I think he will have a smoother path than we've had with Hapy.
Hal's new adventure hasn't dimmed his interest nor progress with Hapy, though. He stopped by on Sunday to pick up some tools for his bus, and to grab the dog bone. He'll be working on the dog bone mount at his place where he has fancy shop tools. Hopefully, we'll have some remarkable progress in the coming weeks on that end.

So, this next week is pretty busy. I do hope to have that last front bracket finished, and the square-bar integrated so I can start thinking about how the front will be supported. I'm not sure if I'll actually have any time with the bus this weekend, but I'll certainly try.

top - one of the rear brackets before attaching to the radiator
middle - one of the rear brackets attached. Note the coolant inlet/outlet clearance
bottom - starting the front brackets. You can see the cut-down of the angle braces. That's the temperature sensor pointing down.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

no new tales to tell

I've been working on getting my daily driver running right, and dealing with non-vehicle issues, so I haven't made any real movement on the bus since the last post. I've had some musings, and a little action, though, and I'll hit that today.

I did get most of the harness plugs identified, though. I also got an email from a reader in Kentucky that will be sharing his wealth of knowledge that he accumulated doing a conversion with an ALH engine. Same engine -> same harness. Unbelievable offer from him, and I'd been a fool to not accept it. Reading someone else's notes can be hard, but harder than trying to do all the research and making your own? Knowing that a notebook's worth of detail is coming has effectively ended my foray into identifying the plugs myself. I was able to discover that the harness still has the large relays for firing the original radiator fans. That circuit may be helpful when I get to the radiator.

Radiator Locating.... Again
This seems to be the open sore spot with this project. It shouldn't come as a great surprise, though, I mean this was an air-cooled bus. Getting qualified opinions is hard, and getting flamed by purists is easy. There are a few brave folks out there, though, that have done this before, and I believe I am back in the under-belly camp. In the picture to the right, here, a member of theSamba has fitted a simple radiator concept under his bus between the frame rails. If you look closely, you can see that it has a slight pitch, but no cowling. He says that he doesn't have any overheating issues, though I can't help but wonder how the rad-heated air doesn't recirculate back into the radiator when idling at a stop light or in stop-and-go traffic. Regardless, I am going to follow this design example, and start assembling something very similar when I can get back to my usual schedule.

Cabin Heat
I've been thinking and talking to folks about the cabin heat too. Now, this is much less important, but having a means of running the defroster is important during Summer camping months too, so we can't just throw it away entirely. I'm thinking of using a flexi-hose (1/2" PEX) to get the coolant from the rear to the heater core. For a core, I have a vanagon rear-heater unit that I will be tying into the main air channel under the bus just behind the front axle. I need to determine an internal air-vent source, and I'm thinking of re-using the original Westy water vent hole in the floor right by the sliding door. I figure, I can put a simple round finned plate on the floor of the bus to pull cool air into the heat system without any new holes. Then, its just a matter of figuring out a flapper to control when to get interior or exterior air, and routing an exterior vent to a place that won't get a bunch of water in it. That can wait, for now.

Our friend Dave, who is forced to sell his Subaru-powered bay-window bus, is still soliciting offers. He has not entered this decision lightly, and needs this capital to raise a legal defense. So if you have any interest in getting into a bay-window bus that has the benefits of a water-cooled engine (read: real heat in winter), and more get-up-and-go than modern Eurovans, please reach out to him. If it makes a difference, I'll try to help by taking the snow tires or the diesel heater (or both).

That's it for today. Lots of thinking, not a lot of doing... at least on Hapy. I Diesel Purged my Jetta TDI today and changed the fuel filter. I'm hoping that will resolve the fuel economy issue I've been chasing there. Otherwise, its the usual family time conflicts: Halloween (and the assorted parties), soccer games and practices, school stuff, etc. Crazy.

More next time. Maybe I'll have made some headway on the radiator bracketing.